The UK Government has announced it is merging Public Health England (PHE) and the newly launched Covid-19 pandemic NHS Test and Trace system into a new body called the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) with immediate effect. The organisation will be formalised and begin official operation from the spring of 2021.

The short term aim of NIHP is to create single command structure for the UK’s response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It will also leverage the analytical expertise of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) and focus on future pandemic preparedness.

In the interim NIHP will be headed by Baroness Dido Harding as executive chair – Harding is the current head of NHS Test and Trace System. The interim CEO of NIHP will be Michael Brodie, the current CEO of the NHS Business Services Authority.

Harding said: “Combining the UK’s world-class public health talent and infrastructure with the new at-scale response capability of NHS Test and Trace into a single organisation puts us in the strongest position to stop the spread of the virus.

“PHE has worked incredibly well with NHS Test and Trace, and with winter ahead, the life-saving work we are doing is more important than ever.

“The changes announced today are designed to strengthen our response, and to radically ramp up our fight against this disease, whilst also protecting PHE’s essential work beyond COVID that is so important for the nation’s health.

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Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock added: “To give ourselves the best chance of beating this virus once and for all – and of spotting and being ready to respond to other health threats, now and in the future – we are creating a brand new organisation to provide a new approach to public health protection and resilience.

“The NIPH will bring together the expertise of PHE with the enormous response capabilities of NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to put us in the best possible position for the next stage of the fight against COVID-19 and for the long term.”