A new agency aimed at responding to future health threats has been announced by the government.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) will focus on planning and responding to future pandemics and health emergencies.
Initially, the agency will respond to the current threats of COVID-19 and will bring together the work of Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, as well as the Joint Biosecurity Centre.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the agency will be a “dedicated, mission-driven national institution for health security” which will be established on 1 April.
Mr Hancock said: “I want everybody at UKHSA, at all levels, to wake up every day with a zeal to plan for the next pandemic.
“Even after years without a major public health threat, UKHSA must be ready, not just to do the science, but to respond at unbelievable pace.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries will head up the new body. Dr Harries said the agency will “change the way we approach health protection” and “ensure we are ready for the challenges of the future.”
UKHSA will replace the newly announced National Institute for Health Protection, which was revealed last summer to replace Public Health England.
Speaking at the Local Government Association’s virtual Annual Public Health Conference where he announced the new body, Mr Hancock said: “There has never been a more important time for public health.”
The new agency is part of public health reforms the government aims to introduce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Hancock told the LGA meeting that “health security is about protecting the country from external threats to health like COVID” and “health promotion” is about “good health of the population”.
He said they both need “focus” and “dedicated homes at a national level”.
The health secretary confirmed that he would set out the plan for “health promotion” in the coming days.
(c) Sky News 2021: COVID-19: New health agency set up by government to tackle future pandemics