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A message from Duncan Selbie

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Dear everyone

Today the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has announced the creation of the National Institute for Health Protection, a new organisation to address the next phase of the pandemic and a new chapter for the nation’s public health system. This effectively replaces Public Health England and therefore is a sensible moment for me to stand aside and create space for new leadership. A copy of the Press Release can be found here.

I wrote to colleagues in PHE on Sunday given media coverage of this news and you can see this message below for those who may have missed this.

The most obvious next priority is to secure the right and best future for all those other responsibilities of PHE that are not about health protection and I can assure everyone that there will be more on this to follow soon.

It has been the honour and privilege of my career over 41 years to lead PHE and I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to my colleagues for the remarkable contribution each has made to protecting and improving the public’s health over our 8 years together.

I have been immensely proud of what we do under intense public and political scrutiny always with professionalism and dignity and with the values that matter the most, decency, kindness and respect.

I wish Baroness Harding as the Chair of this new organisation and the transition every success, and I know everyone will be delighted to hear that Michael Brodie will be returning as the interim Chief Executive Officer to PHE, from tomorrow pending the appointment of a new leadership team.

And finally, be proud of what you do, always aim for the stars and look out for and after each other. You are the rock stars of the health and care system.

Best wishes, Duncan

Duncan Selbie | Chief Executive


Duncan Selbie’s message to PHE colleagues on Sunday 16 August:

Dear everyone

I am sorry beyond words at the way that decisions about our future have been briefed to the media before I have had the chance to explain them.

The Prime Minister and Secretary of State wish to recreate an organisation with a sole focus on health protection and to bring together our health protection services with the budgets and people of the NHS test and trace programme to create a new national institute for health protection. The aim is to boost our unique scientific capability and world leading health protection expertise with much needed new investment. The future arrangements for delivering everything else we do for the country including on health improvement and our corporate services will be worked through over the coming weeks and months and will, of course, include formal consultation and the proper HR processes to ensure this is handled transparently and fairly.

Any organisation that says it got everything right is wrong and no public health body enters a pandemic expecting to look the same as a consequence.

However, no one remotely close to our work of the past eight years, and since January on the pandemic would agree with the headlines that this change reflects “pandemic failure” on our part.

Certainly this is not what the Secretary of State believes or says in public or private.

No public body has done more to protect the health of the people than PHE nor has more reason to be proud of its contribution. Equally on health improvement over the years on cancer, tobacco, obesity and air quality amongst much more, and crucially in support of our colleagues in local government, the NHS and our work internationally on behalf of the UK.

I am expecting the official announcement to be on Tuesday and will say more then. I shall make every effort to speak to anyone who wants to ask me questions over the next few days.

I am immensely proud of what PHE represents and has achieved for the UK and of each of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this and for your support through the years. No chief executive could have asked for more.

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  1. Comment by Melba Wilson posted on

    Hi Duncan,
    I'm very sorry for the way PHE has been stood down. I know you as a person of integrity and effectiveness and feel this is a really unfair turn of events. Given your long and impressive track record, I'm sure you will continue to work in any way you can to improve the health of the nation. Who knows, this may be a blessing in disguise.

    Wishing you all the very best.
    Melba Wilson

  2. Comment by Peter Power-Hynes MA FRSAI FRSA FRGS posted on

    Clearly the Government are pointing the finger of blame at PHE for their COVID19 failures before any independent public enquiry is undertaken. The public are not fools and nor are the amazing HNS staff at all levels. I feel sorry for people like Duncan Selbie and his immense contribution to the health and safety of the public.

  3. Comment by Cllr Marianne Overton MBE posted on

    I have found the Friday briefings very useful and informative, a new initiative in wide communication from Duncan. There may be things wrong with the current system, but further centralisation takes us in the wrong direction. Local Councils do a great job, responsible for public health locally, a vital cornerstone to keep and build upon. Good Luck, Duncan and thanks for your support.

  4. Comment by Vinod Patel posted on

    PHE have done an amazing job over the year! So very very proud of this organisation
    NHS Consultant and Academic

  5. Comment by Christophe Fernandez posted on

    Thank you Duncan Selbie and team. The first troops on-scene are always vulnerable but never short of valour. We have learnt a lot globally and that insularity is a threat to health more than anything else..we need structures like old Croydon motto was "Sanitate Crescamus" yeah, let's protect health..with renewed thanks and best wishes.

  6. Comment by Ines Ilic posted on

    I am failing to see how a restructuring of such a big institution is the right thing to do at this time of crisis. I hope the PHE employees do not feel betrayed and defamed, I am sure I am speaking what many of us 'awerage people' are thinking right now. This surely feels like a low blow, and at the worst time imaginable. Do not lose focus in your mission, and however you will be able to contribute to a better future of this country, please continue to do so. Integrity- it is doing the right thing, even when you know nobody is looking.

  7. Comment by Zillah Dimmock posted on

    PHE please take an urgent review into Care Homes. Residents are still unable to receive proper contact from relatives. Rather than a blanket fits all (no one allowed in doors) we need regional responses. For example Worcestershire at present is 6 per 100,000 rate whereas other areas are dangerously high. Yet doors remain closed to Care Homes with minimal contact for residents. Residents have been failed by not being considered as important enough to be included in restriction easing. Many other restrictions have been lifted with no consideration on the impact to the vulnerable who remain unable to properly receive visitors. Many are end of life - every moment counts! Please start considering regional easing and replacing of restrictions when necessary. This situation is detrimental to their health and mental well being.

  8. Comment by Francois BOURDILLON posted on

    Thank you Duncan Selbie for your job in PHE. As you know PHE has been a model for Santé publique France the new national french Public health agency
    You can be proud of what you have done
    I fell so sorry for England
    Best wishes Duncan
    François BOURDILLON ex chief executive of Santé publique France