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Duncan Selbie's Friday message - 21 February 2020

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Dear everyone


There have been no new positive cases this week in the UK, which is testament to the robust infection control measures in place, as well as the diagnostic and testing work that is happening in laboratories across the country. But this is early days and we do expect more new cases and are working night and day with Government, both national and local, and the NHS to ensure the UK is prepared for all eventualities.

And tomorrow, the British nationals on board the Diamond cruise liner in Japan will arrive in Arrowe Park in the Wirral for 14 days of quarantine, and our thanks go to everyone in the Wirral for their assistance again in looking after them.

PHE is also publishing a suite of guidance about COVID-19 and this week’s includes the education and transport sectors. You can access this guidance here.

Tobacco harm

People with poor mental health die on average 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population, and smoking is the leading cause of this. A third of cigarettes smoked in England are smoked by people with mental health problems. While a decrease in smoking rates has been seen in adults living with a long-term mental health condition – falling from 35% in 2013/14 to 27% in 2018/19 – prevalence remains double that in all adults (14.5% in 2018/19).

The next edition of Heath Matters, PHE’s professional digital resource, will be published on Wednesday and focused on smoking and mental health, the effectiveness of stop smoking treatment for people with mental health problems, and progress towards achieving smokefree mental health trusts. The edition will be launched via a live teleconference, in which a panel of topic experts will facilitate a question and answer session. You can sign up to join the teleconference here.

Smoking and mental health prevalence rates


Last Friday, we published provisional data which showed that in 2019, there were 5,042 confirmed cases of mumps in England compared to 1,066 cases in 2018, and the highest number of cases in a decade. Many of these were seen in the so-called ‘Wakefield cohorts’, which are young adults born in the late nineties and early 2000s who missed out on the MMR vaccine when they were children. With this population now being old enough to attend college and university, we saw outbreaks in these institutions largely driving the steep rise in cases and they are likely to continue fuelling outbreaks into 2020. We have been working closely with the National Union of Students (NUS) and have created a communications resource to assist universities in encouraging students to contact their GP and get vaccinated.

The best protection against mumps and its complications is to have two doses of the MMR vaccine and it is never too late to catch up.

Year of the Nurse and Midwife

2020 is the World Health Organization Year of the Nurse and Midwife and a time to reflect on how nurses and midwives – the largest and most trusted professional workforce – use their unique position to lead improvements for the nation’s health and respond to the public health challenges that we face. PHE has worked with Health Education England’s e-Learning for Healthcare team to develop a series of resources for health and care professions, which are brought together as part of our All Our Health programme. These provide a practical way for nurses and midwives to recap and build on their knowledge and find out about how they might embed prevention into their practice. You can read more about this in our blog.


And finally, tomorrow our new Start4Life campaign is being launched to boost parents’ confidence in introducing solid foods to their baby. The weaning hub is packed with NHS-endorsed advice and videos to support parents through their weaning journey, so they can introduce solid foods safely and healthily. You can find out more on the Start4Life website.

Best wishes


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