Health protection – guidance

International Health Regulations 2005: UK National Focal Point communications protocol

PHE's role as National Focal Point for communication of public health events to the WHO under the International Health Regulations (2005).



The International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 are an international instrument that is legally binding on all World Health Organization (WHO) Member States.

The purpose and scope of the IHR 2005 is to prevent, protect against, control, and provide a public health response to, the international spread of disease in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks, and which avoid unnecessary interference with international traffic and trade.

Under the IHR 2005, Member States designate a national focal point (NFP) to communicate with the regional WHO IHR contact point.

The UK governments, including the devolved administrations, have designated Public Health England (PHE) to act as the NFP for all of UK territory, to include England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the overseas territories (OTs) and the Crown dependencies (CDs).

The NFP must:

  • assess events that may be public health emergencies of international concern (PHEICs)
  • immediately notify the WHO of any such events

The IHR 2005 includes a list of diseases, which the NFP must always report to WHO:

  • smallpox
  • wild-type polio
  • new subtypes of human influenza
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

For all other public health events (biological, radiological or chemical) the decision instrument in Annex 2 on page 43 of IHR 2005 helps Member States to decide whether to notify WHO of a potential PHEIC under IHR 2005.

Communications on IHR matters should not be sent direct to WHO from any other body than the NFP.

The first NFP activity report for 2007 to 2010 by the Health Protection Agency, the PHE predecessor in this role, is available from the National Archive.