Skip to main content

Duncan Selbie's Friday Message - 3 July 2020

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Duncan Selbie Friday Message

Dear everyone

Keep on, keeping on

PHE has been at the heart of tackling this global pandemic which is unprecedented in living memory.

There are four behaviours which I have found to stand the test of time that define the most able teams and organisations. They go beyond structures, policies and mission statements and matter much more to trust and confidence. The first of these is to say and do the same thing – people notice when these are not aligned. Second, to be good to be around when things go wrong and to fix problems rather than blame. Anyone can be good to be around when things are going well but that is not when we get measured. Third, to keep promises and if you cannot, to explain why. And finally, the most able people, teams and organisations understand the importance of speaking well of each other in public and in private. This is not about not being accountable, but it is about getting the best from people. These are not in order of importance, but they are front of my mind at this moment of daily media criticism of PHE, much of it plain wrong.

Naturally there is much to learn about how we would do things differently for next time round, but these are for all of Government, including PHE, and of course we are adapting from experience as we speak.

So I want to say thank you again to my PHE colleagues for their phenomenal individual and collective contributions and these are recognised by the Secretary of State.

Disease Detectives

Hats off to Professor Kate Ardern, Director of Public Health for Wigan who made a fabulous contribution to the BBC Coronavirus Newscast on Wednesday evening, which was the clearest and most down to earth explanation of contact tracing and disease detection. Congratulations to Kate and to Greater Manchester and you can hear the podcast here.


I would like to pay tribute to Ivan Browne and Mike Sandys, the respective Directors of Public Health for Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council for their superb response to the difficult decision to increase restrictions for at least the next two weeks. People are being urged to make essential journeys only and stay at home as much as they can. In addition, the restaurants, bars and hairdressers will not reopen tomorrow, and the non-essential shops that opened on 15 June have closed again.

This is undoubtedly a concerning time for the people of Leicester and Leicestershire. However, these actions are in everyone’s interest to contain and stop the spread of the virus and most importantly save lives. The learning from this first experience will be invaluable as we seek to prevent and contain outbreaks in other areas.

Data on local outbreaks

Obviously key to identifying and managing local outbreaks is data and surveillance, and so the addition of upper and lower tier local authority community testing data to our online dashboard is a further positive development. This is in addition to the data that we have been providing to local authorities and Directors of Public Health through the daily COVID-19 report and weekly summaries, which includes trends and demography at health protection team and local authority level of case data.

COVID-19 Local Outbreak Plans

It is very positive to see local authorities publishing their Local Outbreak Plans, which are designed to ensure that local systems are fully prepared and ready to respond, building on the tireless work that councils have been undertaking on this over recent months. Find out more on the ADPH website.

Vitamin D

Since early on in the pandemic, there has been speculation that Vitamin D supplementation could reduce the risk of COVID-19, and this prompted two evidence reviews carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Both concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to support the use of Vitamin D to specifically treat or prevent COVID-19. Nonetheless, Vitamin D remains important for bone and muscle health, and the official guidance still stands – to consider taking 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day.

Misuse of illegal drugs

The Government has launched the second phase of an independent review by Professor Dame Carol Black into the misuse of illegal drugs in England, which will consider how treatment services, both in the community and in prison, and broader services including housing and employment support, can support vulnerable people with substance misuse problems to achieve and sustain their recovery. It will also focus on how the misuse of drugs can be prevented in adults and young people. We warmly welcome this second phase and are confident Dame Carol will deliver pragmatic and ambitious recommendations that will address the shortcomings identified in the first report delivered to the Home Secretary in February. You can read more in the terms of reference and there is a call for evidence that will be closing on Thursday 6 August.

Best wishes



You can subscribe to the Friday message newsletter version which goes direct to your inbox here.

Sharing and comments

Share this page