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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 29 March 2019

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Dear everyone

We have published our annual remit letter that we have received from Ministers. This sets out the objectives that the Government want us to focus on this year as well as describing our remit, from continuing to keep the country safe from high consequence infectious disease and environmental hazards, working to create a fairer society by tackling health inequalities and continuing to apply our world leading science in the UK and around the world.  We are now drawing on this to refine our corporate business plan and will share this soon.

The latest prevalence estimates from PHE of opiate and crack use show that nationally the combined numbers of people who take crack cocaine on its own, illicit opiates (mainly heroin) on their own and those who take both drugs, rose by 4.4% between 2014-15 and 2016-17. This pattern is reflected in the numbers of people coming into treatment for crack problems (without heroin) increasing by 49% over a similar period (2014-15 to 2017-18).

The rise in crack use has been concerning for some time and other indicators suggest that cocaine production and purity in England and Wales has risen substantially. In response to this PHE and the Home Office undertook an investigation through interviews and focus groups with drug treatment workers, service users and police officers in six different local authority areas in 2018. Findings from this suggest that the rising trend in crack use began to develop around 2013 and has highlighted several issues that have likely contributed including county lines activity and crack becoming more affordable. You can learn more about this in our blog.

This week PHE colleagues from national and local teams participated in the annual scientific meeting of the NIHR School for Public Health Research. This collaboration of 10 competitively chosen university partners focusses on research themes where the questions are currently clearer than the answers, and where innovative place based evaluation methods are being developed and tested. I highlighted the critical role of evidence in influencing policy and decision makers, recognising that this is necessary but not sufficient to win the day; good policy also needs to have the consent of the people, and is why politics and evidence on what works are inseparable. It was also brilliant to see so many PhD students and young researchers working on real life problems and learning how to effectively communicate their findings.

Community Pharmacies offer convenient access to professional services with 1.8 million visits every day. PHE has published a new resource this week showing how pharmacy teams can provide high quality sexual and reproductive health and HIV services and includes advice for NHS and local authority commissioners on how to further embed pharmacies in their policy and decision making.

And finally, we have confirmed the beneficiaries of the £6million alcohol treatment capital fund for 2019-20, supporting 23 projects across England. A particular focus amongst these is access for parents who are alcohol dependent and people experiencing rough sleeping with alcohol problems and you can learn more via our website.

Best wishes


Friday messages from 2012-2018 are available on GOV.UK


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