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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 7 June 2019

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Dear everyone

New Chief Medical Officer and Deputy

It is a pleasure to warmly welcome Professor Chris Whitty’s appointment as the next Chief Medical Officer to succeed Dame Professor Sally Davies. Chris blends a career of science, medicine and public health and we look forward to working with him in furthering the protection and improvement of the nation’s health. Also this week came the news of PHE’s Dr Jenny Harries appointment as Deputy Chief Medical Officer taking up post in mid July. Jenny has been with PHE since our inception as the regional director for the South of England and also more recently as Deputy Medical Director. She has brought great expertise to a number of complex national emergencies from Ebola to the Wiltshire poisonings and has achieved so much in her work in the South of England, as well as being a champion within PHE of diversity and gender balance. Our congratulations to both Chris and Jenny.

Sexual Health

Sexual health has been in the spotlight this week after PHE’s annual report on sexually transmitted infections showed a rise of 5% in diagnoses in England in 2018 compared to 2017.

The report includes trends for individual STIs, with a continued decline in rates of genital warts and increases in diagnoses of gonorrhoea and syphilis. The biggest increase is in gonorrhoea which has risen by 26% and at its highest since 1978. And this week we have published a national syphilis action plan and will be working closely with local government and the NHS on this. The impact of STIs remains greatest in young heterosexuals aged 15 to 24, black ethnic minorities and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

While a rise in cases is greatly concerning, this is in part down to an increase in testing and attendance at sexual health services, both in clinic settings and online. There was a 7% increase in consultations since 2017 and the National Chlamydia Screening Programme carried out 1.3 million tests in 2018, translating to 29% of young women and 11% of young men getting tested. This speaks to the hard work of clinicians and effective local government commissioning despite continuing pressures on the budget.

You can read the full report here.

Commissioning of sexual health, school nursing and health visiting services

This week Secretary of State Matt Hancock MP confirmed the outcome of his review of commissioning of sexual health, health visiting and school nursing services, announced in the NHS Long Term Plan. This affirms no change to the respective commissioning responsibilities of local government and the NHS, but for sexual health services we want to see every local area adopt a co-commissioning model and to jointly prepare a local sexual health plan. There are good examples of sexual health co-commissioning with proven effectiveness and this will be about ensuring every part of the country puts sexual health up higher up the agenda. For health visiting and school nursing, the commissioning responsibilities will remain with local government working increasingly closely with the NHS to ensure every child has the best possible start in life.

Hearing loss

There are around 11 million people across the UK with hearing loss, which means the partial or total inability to hear in one or both ears, and 50,000 of these are children. The 2018 update to the Health Profile for England projects that by 2031, 14.5 million people, which is approximately 20% of the UK population, will have hearing loss. As part of the latest edition of our professional resource Health Matters on prevention across the life course, we have published a blog which sets out actions for prevention and treatment.

Quit 16 - Reducing smoking in the North of England

Smoking causes 16 different types of cancer. Of the 6.7 million people who smoke in England, almost a third live in the North.  This week a new mass media campaign, #Quit16, targeted at those living in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber has gone live, highlighting the risks of the different cancers and encouraging smokers to quit. This will run for four weeks and is the culmination of joint working between NHS North of England Cancer Alliances, PHE, local government and the local NHS to put prevention centre stage.

Health data for small areas

PHE’s Local Health tool has been updated this week, containing nearly 70 indicators including measures such as life expectancy, mortality, cancer incidence and hospital admissions. By presenting data for small areas, such as electoral wards, Local Health provides an insight into the scale of inequalities within local areas and you can learn more in our blog.

Best wishes, Duncan

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