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News Brief: UKHSA Starts Operations as New Public Health Agency

Starting 1st October, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) began operating at full capacity. This new government agency will act as the UK’s primary public health authority when it comes to health protection and security. The UKHSA has inherited responsibilities from Public Health England (PHE), NHS Test and Trace, and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

The UKHSA will operate within both the country’s public health system and its national security infrastructure. It will use the latest advancements in data analytics and genomic surveillance to continue the management of the coronavirus pandemic. The agency will also be tasked with managing future health threats on local, national and international levels.

These public health system reforms were first announced in March 2021. The government cited the ongoing pandemic as having been a motivating factor for the changes.

Therefore, the UKHSA’s first primary objective will be to continue the fight against COVID-19. The agency will be a key contributor in the ongoing efforts to develop vaccines for new variants of the disease.

In the more distant future, the UKHSA will be responsible for further developing infrastructure established in response to COVID-19. The government hopes that this process will help the nation be more prepared to respond to future diseases and health threats. This process will heavily focus on building stronger relationships with research organisations and academia.

Furthermore, the UKHSA will be tasked with exploring inequality within the UK’s public health system. This will include researching variables that determine health outcomes with the goal of minimising these factors’ effects on people who are disadvantaged.

On an international scale, the agency will help the UK maintain its position as a world leader in whole genome sequencing. The UKHSA’s New Variant Assessment Platform will enable Great Britain’s sequencing and variant assessment capabilities to help other nations manage their own responses to the pandemic.

‘The UK Health Security Agency will take on a critical role in protecting the public and ensuring we are prepared for health threats and future pandemics’, Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said.

While the UKHSA has taken on a large portion of former PHE responsibilities, other functions will be transferred to various agencies and bodies. A newly created Office for Health Promotion will be overseen by the chief medical officer and will operate within the Department of Health and Social Care. The government has created a full list that directs readers to new management of former PHE operations.

The UKHSA will collaborate with—rather than replace—public health agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For the latest information from the agency or to learn more about it, click here.

Contains public sector information published by GOV.UK and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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