Policy paper

Transforming the public health system

Sets out reforms to the public health system in England to transform our national health protection capabilities, put health promotion at the heart of government, and more deeply embed prevention and health improvement expertise across local and national government and the NHS.

Applies to England



Following on from The future of public health: the NIHP and other public health functions in September 2020, this publication sets out more details on the government’s plans for public health reform and invites you to share your insights and experience by 26 April 2021 to help us with the next stages of our work.

Our experiences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic show that we need to be vigilant to external threats at all times, with the right skills and capabilities in place, and that we must go further to prevent the underlying health conditions that have a bearing on how vulnerable we are to those threats.

The health protection capabilities of PHE and NHS Test and Trace will combine into a new UK Health Security Agency. The UKHSA (previous working title of NIHP) will bring together our national public health science and response capabilities to protect against infectious diseases and external health threats – in bad times and in good.

The current health improvement, prevention and healthcare public health functions of PHE will transfer to new homes within the health system, aligned to achieve clarity of purpose, accountability and impact. A new Office for Health Promotion will be created in the Department of Health and Social Care, under the professional leadership of the Chief Medical Officer.

As national capability is only part of the story, we also need to strengthen our local response. This is vital, as so many of the conditions for good health and living well are determined locally. At the heart of our proposals in the forthcoming Health and Care Bill is the concept of population health: using the collective resources and strengths of the local system, the NHS, local authorities, the voluntary sector and others to improve the health of their area.

Alongside this, we are strengthening NHS England’s focus on prevention and population health, transferring to it important national capabilities that will help drive and support improved health as a priority for the whole NHS.

As we implement these changes, PHE will close, and a new public health landscape will take shape during 2021.

Published 29 March 2021