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The COVID-19 vaccine programme has been the largest vaccine campaign in NHS history. The approach in London has and continues to be a true partnership endeavour, bringing together and harnessing the assets of all system partners and our communities in order to achieve high and equitable vaccine uptake across the city. Delivery has been multifaceted, bringing together activities at the hyperlocal, borough, Integrated Care Systems (ICS) and regional levels.

The regional Public Health function has worked to support, enable and contribute to system delivery of the vaccine programme in London by adopting a four-pillar approach focusing on:

  • data and evidence
  • tackling hesitancy and increasing confidence
  • addressing practical barriers to vaccination
  • evaluation, monitoring and system leadership

The data and evidence

Timely, high quality data and intelligence on vaccine uptake has been fundamental to London’s effort. Working closely with key London partners, we have developed a range of analysis and reports examining uptake by various groups and demographic factors. This has helped us to track progress in London and guide ongoing system efforts to increase uptake and tackle inequalities. Using presentations and analysis in creative ways has helped to demonstrate progress with delivery and highlight gaps and inequalities creating a shared understanding across partners.

Tackling hesitancy and increasing confidence

Lower self-reported vaccine confidence or likelihood of accepting the vaccine amongst London’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been mirrored by COVID-19 vaccine programme data showing lower uptake in many minority ethnic communities, and in areas of greater deprivation. Given the stark and persistent inequalities experienced by these communities in terms of risk of COVID infection and poorer outcomes, equitable vaccine uptake across the city has been a critical priority of the programme.

Engaging and working with Londoners has been central to understanding the questions, concerns and barriers experienced by London’s diverse communities. At a regional level, this has included a series of round tables with community groups including a pan-London Community Champion Coordinator programme and resources developed to reach specific communities and populations. A regional ‘bureau of speakers’ was developed to include medical and Public Health experts from a range of communities and backgrounds to support local events. From this grew the Public Health Ambassadors programme where colleagues from across PHE London used their lived experience and networks within their communities to co-design resources  and activities.

Many communities have concerns and fears that reach well beyond vaccine safety and efficacy. Historic and recent medical malpractice was a big feature as well as long standing issues of mistrust, discrimination and fear of state-run services and systemic racism. Listening to and acknowledging these fears and concerns linked to deep-seated and structural issues has been a vital first step towards rebuilding relationships and trust.

Addressing the barriers to vaccine uptake

Vaccine hesitancy is not the only factor behind inequalities in vaccine uptake, practical access issues are also key, The NHS, working with London borough colleagues and wider partners, have sought to adapt programme delivery over time in order to overcome these barriers and maximise convenience.

The use of local community venues, vaccination buses and other hyperlocal locations in non-traditional and more familiar settings are examples of this approach. Outreach models were developedto take vaccination to people who may otherwise not access them through other sites if they were housebound, homeless or asylum seekers for example. Hyperlocal vaccination options, alongside targeted outreach, such as door knocking or street engagement teams, has been effective at reaching people with barriers to access. Local booking systems were developed to overcome some of the challenges associated with the national booking system, and many sites offered walk-in clinics. Local call centres were also established to proactively follow up unvaccinated Londoners and provide support with booking.

Evaluating what we did

A pan-London evaluation of the COVID-19 vaccine programme was undertaken to learn lessons and share innovative practice in real time to inform programme delivery.

The evaluation report was recently published and is itself an example of strong collaboration and partnership across many partners. The report is divided into four distinct areas of focus – barriers, demand, access and legacy–and makes a number of recommendations in order to build on the learnings gathered throughout the programme and to drive continued improvement,  not only for the COVID-19 vaccine programme, for wider vaccines and for broader health systems more generally.

What we learnt

A vital thread across the system has been the importance of partnership working. Whilst the NHS led on the vaccine programme the strength of different partners was brought together through various elements whether it was the deep understanding of localities from Directors of Public Health and local authority partners to best practice engagement from the mayoral team. Much of this was facilitated by meeting to highlight issues and share good practice but also embedded through the agile learning of evaluating our work regularly. This enabled system partners to all constantly learn and grow together towards increasingly innovative methods and approaches.  

Another essential element has been the importance of working alongside communities to understand their aspirations, needs and concerns. This takes time, energy and resource but is vital to understand and address inequalities and is crucial to build confidence in vaccines and health systems. As we start to reflect on the last 18 months, it is essential that we take this as a legacy of learning from this pandemic – aiming to embed and sustain this approach going forwards. This is key not just for a focus on COVID-19 and vaccination but should be used for all health and prevention services more widely.

Written by

Dr Cyril Eshareturi
Senior Project Manager: PHE London COVID-19 response

Dr Leonora Weil
Public Health Consultant: PHE London COVID-19 response

Julie Billet
Director of Operations: PHE London Operations

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In London, we have been talking with different communities about vaccines. We wanted to learn from their experiences so we can better serve their needs. One consistent theme we have heard loud and clear is the role of racism.  Questions of “Why isn’t the systemic racism that results in health inequalities for Black people…not being given the same attention as the push for this vaccine?” We are no longer only talking about vaccines.

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen the devastating and inequitable impact COVID-19 has had on populations in UK and worldwide. Last year, Public Health England (PHE) published a review of health disparities from COVID19, and Beyond the Data report, based on stakeholder feedback. [i] It comes as no surprise that people from ethnic minority backgrounds continue to face poorer outcomes and access to health and care. [ii] What we are seeing is an exacerbation and amplification of existing health inequalities. These inequalities, which are unjust and avoidable, are not new. What is new is the attention these injustices have garnered and the opportunity to make a true and lasting difference in how we work with our diverse communities.

The reasons underlying these ethnic health inequalities are complex. Consider multigenerational households, now a known risk factor for transmission of COVID19, particularly for Asian households. In non-pandemic times, an older family member living with their children and grandchildren are protected from social isolation, leading to better physical and psychological health. They also provide childcare and support for working parents and transfer of skills from one generation to the next. This myriad of interconnecting socioeconomic factors are well-defined in the socio-ecological model, encapsulated in the Dahlgren and Whitehead diagram which is emblematic of the public health approach.

In our conversations with Londoners, the pernicious effect of discrimination, stigma, and most of all, structural racism resonated in all the voices we heard. Racism, in different forms, shapes the conditions we live in, and has been called one of the causes of the causes of the causes.[iii] As well as colouring the canvas of people’s lives, it cuts and obstructs their progress throughout the lifecourse, interweaving a path of cumulative disadvantage through multiple mechanisms. Not everyone from ethnic minority groups are born to disadvantage, nor do they stay in disadvantage, but it is the intersectional nature of race, gender and socioeconomic position that makes it harder for people from ethnic minority backgrounds to thrive. The impact of racism, and identifying racism as a public health issue[iv], has led us to integrate racism into the Whitehead and Dahlgren model. It is time to reform the public health agenda and recognise the connection between structural racism and racialised disparities in health.

Reducing health inequalities is core public health work.  If we accept that racism plays a causative role in health equalities, then developing a deeper understanding of possible links between racism and health is a prerequisite for interventions that target health inequalities at a community and individual level. Addressing racism is central to eliminating racialised health disparities, and therefore, should be central to public health research and practice,

As we reflect on the past year, and work to build back lives and livelihoods, now is the time to listen, the time to collectively work and amplify unheard voices, the time to take action and dismantle the White hegemony that has reverberated in the policies and organisations around us. Within PHE London public health colleagues who have insights as community members have collaborated co-design solutions with communities according to their needs, and not to fulfill our needs to deliver vaccinations or tests. We aim to help the system work more proportionately, ensuring that we build trust and strengthen relationships so we’re in a better position to support all our communities to thrive and be resilient should the next pandemic or health threat occur. We will listen and ask what would have worked better, how we could have worked better and what we can do from now to be better.

Dr. Jennifer Yip

Leah de Souza-Thomas

[i] Public Health England. Disparities in Risks and Outcomes from COVID19. June 2020 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/908434/Disparities_in_the_risk_and_outcomes_of_COVID_August_2020_update.pdf

Public Health England: Beyond the Data: Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-understanding-the-impact-on-bame-communities

[ii] Mathur R et al. The Lancet  Apr 2021. Ethnic differences in SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19-related hospitalisation, intensive care unit admission, and death in 17 million adults in England: an observational cohort study using the OpenSAFELY platform


[iii] From Sir Michael Marmot reported by The Guardian wed 7th April. UK public health expert criticises No 10 race report ‘shortcomings’ | Race | The Guardian

[iv] ADPH Policy position: Supporting Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Adapted from Dahlgren and Whitehead, 1993 showing racism as a driving force for social determinants of health.  Though social determinants are universal, racism is one of a range of driving forces that exists in our societies and that acts on these determinants.

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Disease outbreaks, climate change and conflict are affecting millions of people each year and that number is growing.  We’re facing a global-health crises and tragically it’s the poorest people who suffer most. 

UK-Med is an international emergency health charity who believes everyone should have the health care they need when crises or disasters hit.  We save lives in emergencies.  So, when health systems are over-whelmed, we send expert health teams to where they’re needed fast.  We help communities prepare for future emergencies, and we share what we learn so people across the world can get the best care. 

Our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

Since February 2020 UK-Med has responded to 13 requests for help to support the global COVID-19 pandemic in countries including Ghana, Cambodia, Zambia, Lebanon, Bangladesh, Armenia and Eswatini in Southern Africa.  Our work involves providing direct clinical care, delivering specialist training and on the job mentoring and support to better prepare health care teams for future emergencies and developing research projects to share best practice and inform policy improvements across the humanitarian health sector. 

We’re a lead partner in the UK Emergency Medical Team (UK EMT), the Government’s frontline response to a medical emergency and we played a key role in the set-up of the Nightingale, Manchester.

Helping fight COVID-19 in Djibouti, East Africa:

UK-Med’s most recent response in June, follows an urgent request for help via the WHO Emergency Medical Team’s (EMT) Secretariat to support Djibouti’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Djibouti is a small country on the East coast of Africa which has become a temporary shelter to around 33,000 asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war and drought.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was estimated thousands of people passed through the country each year from its neighbours:  Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and from across the Bay of Aden, Yemen. 

With a population of less than a million, Djibouti itself is facing a number of crises, particularly extreme poverty, limited access to healthcare and continual health problems, including HIV/Aids[1].   Nearly half the country’s population live in slums on the outskirts of the capital city, making it a hotspot for a future COVID-19 surge. 

The UK-Med team:

Although current case numbers of COVID-19 are low with (as of June 22nd) 11,591 confirmed cases and 155 reported deaths, Djibouti needs urgent support to prepare for a future wave.  

UK-Med has sent a team of four medics to assess and deliver urgent training in four of the larger hospitals in the capital – Djibouti City.   

The team is made up of a critical care doctor and nurse from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, a specialist nurse in infection, prevention and control (IPC) from Benin – West Africa and a British biomedical engineer from Bedfordshire. 

They are providing specialist training to healthcare staff to treat serious and critically ill patients with COVID-19, setting up a triage system in each of the four hospitals, encouraging the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine amongst healthcare workers and developing infection, prevention and control guidelines to prevent the further spread of the virus.  The biomedical engineer is also delivering training in the distribution and supply of oxygen and maintenance of medical equipment. 

A Manchester charity, born of the NHS:

Born of the NHS, UK-Med is a Manchester charity that has been responding to emergencies around the world for more than 30 years.  Our founder Professor Tony Redmond OBE led the first response – a team of eight Manchester clinicians to Armenia in aid of those who had been hit by a devastating earthquake in 1988. 

When Ebola hit West Africa in 2014, killing over 11,000 people, we recruited, trained and sent 150 NHS clinicians to work in treatment centres alongside local health workers to help bring the outbreak under control.

A unique mix of expertise:

Today, UK-Med draws our teams from a unique mix of top NHS and international clinicians, experienced aid workers and local expertise.  Our register of nearly 1000 doctors, nurses and allied health professionals of all specialities is rigorously trained for emergencies.  The patients we reach receive the best possible care because our teams are verified to international standards by the World Health Organisation. 

Support us to help everyone get the health care they need when crises or disasters hit. 

For the pandemic to end it needs to end everywhere. And right now, there are too many forgotten places. A donation today will help us continue our work in Djibouti or on another emergency health response.  UK-Med only responds to local requests for support and when we know we can add value.   Read more about our COVID-19 responses around the world.  

Alison Mee

Media and Communications Manager


[1] https://borgenproject.org/tag/healthcare-in-djibouti/

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The 2010 Marmot Review was a landmark, evidence-based, review into public health and inequalities. Ten years on, Sir Michael Marmot has demonstrated that overall life expectancy has stalled and even decreased in some groups. Levels of deprivation have not improved, and people are spending more of their shortened lives in poor health.

Poor health and inequalities are expensive to the public purse, creating a clear logic to tackling this issue, beyond the moral imperative. The timing of reform to public health organisations in England may have been surprising but does present an opportunity for change. The recent consultation on public health systems sets out proposals to split health security and health improvement into two bodies – the UK Health Security Agency and the Office for Health Promotion. The covid pandemic has devastatingly shown the value of each.

The reforms present an opportunity to approach commissioning differently. Too often decisions are made on the immediate need of the health system to cope, such as with winter pressures. This defers public health decisions, yet every tomorrow the problem is bigger. We need significant public health programmes, with wide remits, over a multi-year cycles. Rather than expecting immediate returns, we need to recognise that quality and benefits can take time.

By way of comparison, energy supplies and sustainable energy plans are designed over decades. Targets set in 2007 were designed to be achieved by 2050. The commissioning, building, and eventual decommissioning of a nuclear power plant is not designed to meet the energy needs of the upcoming Christmas holidays. The benefits of building a power plant will be delivered over decades. Public health should be no different.

The evidence for tackling modifiable risk factors has been known for years. Yet prevention is routinely not adequately funded. Whether this is smoking cessation services being decommissioned, EHC services being restricted, or great ideas to tackle weight or blood pressure never getting past the first hurdles – opportunities are being missed. Changing the public’s health is not a quick fix, nor is it solely the responsibility of healthcare professionals. Public health stretches from education to housing to diet to social activities. There is often talk of the benefits of a “system”, but the absence of an inclusive, truly integrated system means we miss the full potential of public health to reduce poor health and tackle inequalities. Clear lines of communication, shared objectives, and co-designed plans are essential.

Community pharmacy is an obvious partner in any national strategy. Community pharmacy’s role within public health, health security and prevention has never been more visible. Covid vaccinations and testing kits have reinforced the importance of accessible healthcare teams within communities. There is a network of over 14,000 pharmacies across the UK who can work with local leaders, their communities, and patients to change the health of local populations. Changing behaviours and culture is not a quick fix, and objectives can be no less rigorous even while recognising this.

Balancing the needs of local and national is never easy. Although all populations are unique, they often have similar requirements. The public need to know what support they can expect and how to access it. Individual services may not be prolific if there is little need in one area, but there is no need to ‘redesign the wheel’ in every area. Universal demands such as emergency contraception should be nationally commissioned from every pharmacy, eliminating any element of ‘post-code lottery’. But even services that may be more tailored to local need, reflecting specific priorities, should embrace an overall framework. There are gold standards for much of healthcare, but commissioning remains firmly patchwork and inconsistent.

During the height of the pandemic, when pharmacies were under immense pressure, local interpretation of guidance added confusion and inefficiency. There is a need to balance universal principles and key actions, whilst accounting for local implementation. Various national bodies have been criticised over the last year for the clarity (and timeliness) of their communication. Local leaders need to have both the confidence to implement locally and the discipline not to create local variation unnecessarily.

Whether seen through the lens of “levelling up” or reducing health inequalities, local and national leaders need to build on the amazing ‘can do’ spirit of the healthcare sector during pandemic and seize the opportunity that public health presents to achieve lasting change. Community pharmacies are placed within communities, trusted, and accessible. The ”inverse care law” does not apply to community pharmacy, and commissioning just a few well designed intervention programmes would make a material difference to our nation’s health. Moving the prevention aspect of public health into the remit of the Chief Medical Officer presents an opportunity to supercharge our collective efforts. Pharmacy has the expertise, the national network and local reach. All we need is the opportunity to use them.

Nick Thayer
Professional Research and Policy Manager
Company Chemists’ Association

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None of us can envisage how the complex adaptive system of planet Earth and its ecosystems will develop over time, but one thing is certain – that our planet, and the human societies, animals and plants which inhabit it – will change in ways which are unknown and unknowable. The dominant cultural paradigms of modernism and postmodernism which have defined public health practice are being replaced by a new paradigm which is increasingly referred to as ‘metamodernism’. Public health leaders are ideally placed to shape this slowly evolving cultural revolution, and will also need to attend to their own development to thrive.

Human beings have lived in societies and created culture for at least 40,000 years. Cultural  ‘memes’ (non-biological units of cultural transmission) are spread between human beings by communication: similar to a virus becoming endemic, some memes take off within a society and become dominant. Memes which become dominant may go on to define a broader paradigm (‘meta-memes’) and thus define a society, we regard such meta-memes as being the symbols and signs of a society’s ‘culture’ (as represented by their forms of art, literature, music, philosophy, religion and science etc).

The spread of cultural paradigms is not even within a society, nor can a paradigm be readily contained within specific time periods as discussed by the authors under the pseudonym of Hanzi Freinacht. The cultural paradigm which has increasingly dominated Western society for the last few hundred years (‘modernism/scientific rationality’) has its roots in the 17th and 18th Century Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment periods. While one cultural paradigm may dominate a society, nation, or group of nations, as in the example of modernism, there are actually multiple paradigms co-existing globally – and also within a nation or even within a local society – at any one time. For example, the range of cultural beliefs within societies and individuals across the planet currently spans from ‘animistic’ (tribal society with magical and ritualistic thinking) through multiple paradigms to ‘post-modern’ (criticism of the rational, scientific thinking of modernism). This presents a challenge to public health leaders, whose endeavours to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities and national populations cannot, as we know, ever be a one-size fits all. This is before we even consider the additional issue of stage of adult development of individuals within a society.

Each new cultural paradigm has brought some degree of improvement to the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. However even the most well-intentioned moral projects resulting in new and seemingly ‘better’ paradigms have brought unintended negative consequences of their own: every paradigm contains ‘the seeds of its own destruction’. Freinacht reminds us that modernism has led to further inequality, alienation and ecological collapse, and that while postmodernism has provided a narrative in response to oppression and inequality, it has largely failed to have impact.

There is evidence, especially in Nordic countries, of an emerging new cultural paradigm which public health leaders may wish to consciously pay attention to, in order to shape its direction, to enhance the benefits and to mitigate the unintended, inevitable, negative consequences. It is a paradigm evolving under the names including post-postmodern, TEAL, integral, and increasingly referred to as ‘metamodernism’.

Metamodernism is a perspective which transcends and includes many aspects of previous paradigms, and is based on complexity, emergence, and dialectical thinking. Individuals are seen in the context of transpersonal networks integrated with the planetary ecosystem, ie both autonomous and indivisible from others and the whole.  Descriptions of a possible metamodern society are based on ideas of cultivating new forms of social welfare – building societies where people feel heard and valued, with a focus on adult development and psychological wellbeing. Metamodern politics focuses primarily on process, in order to ensure that all people can flourish and thrive – and all of this in a way which is open, democratic and without ‘being controlled’. As public health leaders, we know that this must be underpinned by the essential needs of food, security, income, and other key determinants of health: and yet there is also increasing evidence that people with, for example, poor mental health can also experience high levels of wellbeing, and vice versa.

Public health professionals have always worked at the forefront of new ideas and new paradigms, working across systems, organisations and communities in service of their populations. In order to lead in the context of new, post-postmodern cultural paradigms, public health leaders will need to grow their own forms of mind to embrace the metanarratives of metamodernism.

Dr Fiona Day is a former Consultant in Public Health Medicine, now working as an Executive Coach offering world-class coaching for senior doctors, medical and public health leaders in the UK and internationally. She specialises in using adult development theory in the context of complexity to enable leadership development.

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What is COP 26?

We are hearing a lot about COP 26 these days, so what is it? It is the next annual UN Climate Change conference. COP stands for Conference of the Parties and the meeting will be attended by the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) a treaty that came into force in 1994. 194 countries ratified the treaty.

COP 26 is happening in Glasgow in November 2021. It should have been in 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be hosted by UK and Italy. There is still some debate as to whether the meeting will be partly ‘virtual’ due to the continuing issues of the pandemic.

COP 26 is significant as it is 5 years since the landmark Paris agreement and is the first time countries will come together to renew commitments to strengthen the ambition to meet the 1.5 degree target agreed at the Paris COP in 2015.

Each country has to produce a NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) outlining what they will contribute to the global reduction in emissions towards net zero by 2050. Most NDCs need to be more ambitious than they are at present and the delay to COP 26 has given an opportunity for countries to revise them. UK has recently produced a revised NDC. During the Leaders’ Climate Summit, hosted by President Biden on 22 April, USA published an ambitious NDC, including the commitment to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions, and other countries also made further commitments. However taken together they still do not get us to the target.

Why is it important for Public Health?

Climate change is a public health emergency, as FPH recognised in 2019. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how countries can respond to a health emergency and the science shows the next 10 years are critical if we are to respond effectively to the climate crisis. Climate change has serious health impacts but there are also important co-benefits of addressing the environment and climate issues and addressing health, for example in the area of clean air, active travel, diet and nutrition.

The issues of climate change, biodiversity loss, environment degradation, and sustainable development are inextricably linked and underline the need to take a One Health approach to population health. 

The international health community has been trying to ensure that health issues are more centre stage in the NDCs and also centre stage at COP 26.

Climate Change is the biggest threat to health.

There are major health impacts of climate change, not just across the globe but also here in UK. Floods and severe weather conditions cause both physical and mental health impacts. Only last week we saw the landmark ruling, with air pollution recorded as a cause of death for the 9 year old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who died of an asthma attack in 2013.  This is due to emissions, mainly from cars and lorries. Air pollution accounts for 4.2 million deaths per year globally and 40,000 across the UK.

This pollution is happening now in our cities. Many areas in the UK do not meet the WHO standards for air quality.

We all as PH professionals have a responsibility to make the connections between everyday health issues and climate change, and address both, tackling them together. 

Why now?

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the globe in the face, climate change is the other big emergency that is hitting as we speak. Besides air pollution, we are already seeing the out-of-control wildfires in Australia and USA, and islands literally disappearing with rising sea level.  We are seeing extreme weather conditions across the globe and in UK. Wildfires happened last week in UK due to the lack of rain and floods regularly cause major problems across the UK with some families not back in their homes 18 months later. 

The Biden summit last week was seen as the first marker for COP 26 and has been welcomed as it signals the USA being back in the Paris agreement and working with other countries on climate issues.  

We have to act NOW if we are going to stop these health impacts and we have to act locally, nationally and globally.

The run up to COP 26 gives us an opportunity to think differently about this both as individuals and in our professional public health lives. Many recognise that sustainability and climate change issues need to be a day-to-day part of our public health practice and we need to act now.

As Greta Thunberg said earlier this week on the BBC “Hope doesn’t come from words, it comes from action”.

Sue Atkinson
Chair, FPH Climate and Health Committee

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Brexit and COVID-19

For over four years FPH  has sought to inform the national debate about leaving the  EU and  when  the decision to leave was made, we have sought public health protections. Our ‘Do No Harm campaign to retain the Lisbon treaty protections for  health, our  campaign to stay with European public health protection agencies like ECDC and  ECCMDDA and our work on healthier trade agreements can all be  found on the FPH website. Our webinar in October highlighted our continuing concerns about leaving the EU without a deal.   

Through November we have sought a dialogue with Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) to see just how realistic Brexit  planning is in the era of pandemic.  LRFs are the delivery vehicles of local preparedness under the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act. The Act was brought in after multiple national emergencies involving floods, fuel strikes and  foot and mouth. LRFs were required to address ‘all risks’  in major emergencies.

Reasonable worst case scenarios

Even in the summer of 2019 FPH  was expressing concerns that the UK was not prepared for Brexit, with or without a trade deal.

Operation Yellowhammer, the Reasonable Worst Case Scenarios (RWCS) for Brexit planning were published August 2nd 2019.  These anticipated a departure from the EU, in the autumn of 2019. They also had no expectation that a pandemic would happen, and  interfere with every piece of national, international and local planning for the Brexit move.  Brexit on its own, was going to be the biggest ever emergency planning exercise across all elements  of civil society and  private sector activities.

LRFs in the pandemic

We now face a perfect storm of a new COVID  pandemic escalation, a cold winter and a crash out Brexit. 

During the current pandemic LRFs, and their constituent  members have been run-ragged,  by the understood requirements of the pandemic, but also by the conflicting and contradictory pronouncements of central government . There has been nothing to relieve this situation since then.  The C19 National Foresight group is a cross-government organisation working with partners to support Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) in response to COVID-19. In May 2020, their leaked report criticised the government’s “paucity of information and intelligence,” which left LRFs, such as councils, police, and medical professionals, “isolated from national decision-making and unable to effectively plan and strategise response[s].” C-19 also described ‘responder community exhaustion’. And added that an additional extreme risk, as posed by a crash-out Brexit, would take them to breaking point. 

The information from central government as shown in the RWCS is clearly inadequate. Nothing has changed since May 2020 to reduce the risks or burdens on local emergency planners with regard to Brexit; it has only become more difficult.  They are in a position of responsibility without power – where they should be the key local body- coordinating, acting, responding, they, like many others are awaiting  central instructions.

LRFs have been planning on the basis of the Operation Yellowhammer RWCS, published on 16 months ago. The RWCS were deeply flawed even in 2019. Some of the omissions are shown in Box 2. Now, the planning parameters have become much worse…An autumn planning scenario for no deal Brexit had been replaced by a winter point for the action- and there is no evidence of planning for a severe winter.  Risks interact- there a plan for a COVID outbreak amongst Border inspection services or for Covid amongst hauliers.  Another multi-impact risk has  been seen with the world wide shortage, and mis-placement of containers, compounded by a massive inflow of container based imports of PPE for the NHS, and  stockpiles of other goods for commercial sale.   Extreme traffic congestion and incomplete facilities on the M20 add risks environmental damage- through air pollution, noise and insanitary conditions,  distressing  conditions for hauliers causing driver frustration, mental stress and localised anger and disorder issues of the ‘road rage’  variety.

There are a multitude of component or service failures which could happen and won’t  be recognised until they happen. Serial and multiple incidents have the potential to conflate as a ‘slow burn’ economic disaster with widespread social and environmental impacts. Combined with actual civil disasters the impact will be more severe, and the capacity to respond  will be impaired.

Central government has excluded local partners from key intelligence and fails to share enough information, as it has with coronavirus. According to the C-19 group, LRFs said central government mainly engaged in ‘broadcasting,’ with communication ‘only one way’.

Local Resilience Forums are limited in the extent  to which they can plan for the EU Withdrawal, with or without a trade deal.  The National RWCS were the start point of their planning considerations and that should give us very little assurance of  our state of preparedness across the country.

And now…new variant  COVID-19

The arrival of a new variant SARS-Cov-2 virus is by Secretary of State, Matt Hancock’s admission ‘out of control’ . This is a new escalation of the already exhausting COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the government should acknowledge that this new development on the COVID-19 pandemic is so grave and requires such significant resources and attention by public health and economic authorities that there should be an agreement to defer the departure of the UK from the EU.

We say this not as pro-Europeans playing  politics, but as experts in public health with years of experience in emergency  preparedness and response.  There would be no shame and no disgrace or political weakness shown by either side in the  Brexit trade negotiations if they simply agreed to extend the period of transition.  Indeed with regard to the safety of the  public, it is the only safe way to respond. 

Professor John Middleton
Immediate Past-President FPH
President of ASPHER

Professor Maggie Rae 
President of FPH

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Do you influence the way resources are allocated by Public Health in the NHS and Government?

Are you up to speed with the answers to the following questions?

  • What guidance would you use when procuring goods and services?
  • What are the main sources of emissions in the NHS?
  • Describe four potential areas for action to reduce NHS carbon emissions

Check your knowledge and reflect on your actions as Public Health professionals by reading the latest resources available on the Faculty of Public Health website as follows:

Resource K9 – The NHS: Carbon Footprint

Resource A9 – Towards a Net-Zero Carbon NHS

Resource A7 – Sustainable Planning, Procurement and Commissioning

The resources will help you to deliver better services, complete your Public Health competencies and reflect on the contribution you can make to the Government aim of reaching net zero carbon emissions targets by 2050 in England and 2045 in Scotland.  Check them out at the Faculty of Public Health website here .

Thanks very much to members of the FPH Sustainable Development Special Interest Group and to Jenny Griffiths as editor in chief and all authors for their contributions to these resources.

Helen Ross
Chair FPH Sustainable Development SIG

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Like other SIGs, the FPH Film SIG was caught off guard by the COVID pandemic. At the end of 2019, members of the SIG had been working with the British Council and UCL to screen films on children health at its first event in India. However strict lockdown measures quickly put paid to live film screenings and opened up a unique opportunity to collaborate with the Public Health Film Society (PHFS), the Government of India and the American Public Health Association (APHA) to collect stories of the pandemic told through film.

With the support of FPH President, Maggie Rae, we helped launch the International Public Health Film Competition 2020, only 46 days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 pandemic on 20th April 2020.

In total 1746 films from 112 different countries were gathered through the film competition, of which over 440 films were specifically related to COVID. It was incredible to see film-makers rising to the challenge of telling stories about the pandemic despite the many hurdles to film production during the lockdown. The FPH recognised this challenge and offered to sponsor a prize for the ‘Best COVID film’ submitted through the competition.

This prize was won by Yohana Ambros for her film ‘Buonanotte/Goodnight’, a moving personal tale of being homelessness in Milan, the epicentre of the pandemic in Europe.

The judges prize went to Javier Robles Álvarez, a young film-maker for his first film ‘MANUEL’, a thought provoking reflection about family time and forgetting, incidentally also made in Spain during the constraints of the pandemic.

Both films will be shown alongside a discussion with the film-makers on 4th December 2020, as part of The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) virtual ‘Big Tent – Live Events Programme’, and the International Science Film Festival of India in late December.

However if you are not able to make any of these screenings, then you can watch the film trailers on the FPH, PHFS or TORCH website.

Lastly, we would like to extend a special thanks to the film judges for kindly gave their time without which this project would not have been possible.

Nimish Kapoor, Senior Scientist and Head, Science Film Festival Division, Vigyan Prasar, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India

Kartik Sharma – Filmmaker and founder of Public Arts Health & Us (PAHUS)

Patrick Russell, Senior Curator (Non-Fiction), British Film Institute (BFI) National Archive

Linda Bergonzi-King, MPH, Co-Organizer of the American Public Health Association Global Public Health Film Festival; Producer/Director/Consultant at TriBella Productions

Dr Stephanie Johnson, Research Fellow in Global Health Bioethics at the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, University of Oxford

Professor Maggie Rae, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health

Dr Olena Seminog, Vice-President, Public Health Film Society, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford

Blog written by Uy Hoang
Chair, FPH Film SIG

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What a day….


Well today is a strange day. There’s a lot going on. 

It was the USA presidential election yesterday and we awoke today expecting the results, but, as I write, it is neck and neck and there is no clarity – certainly no landslide for either Biden or Trump. We have to wait and see when all the votes are counted, despite Trump trying to get some of the postal votes not counted. It doesn’t bode well for a quiet transition.  

Today is the day that the USA formally leaves the Paris Agreement on climate change. The election result will of course have an impact on that. If Trump wins then the withdrawal will remain, with all the global impact that that might bring. If Biden wins then he has said he will reverse that decision and rejoin the USA into the Paris agreement.  For those who know me and my passion around health and climate change then there would be no guess as to which outcome I am hoping for.  (Late note added 8 11 20 – Joe Biden has won and has already said he will rejoin USA into the Paris agreement .. hooray!)  

It is 5 years since the Paris agreement and today is the first Earthmedic and Earthnurse day …. “EarthMedic and EarthNurse are focused on health and environment-related concerns, with the goal of being a home for nurses, doctors and others, concerned about the climate and health emergency we face  

This morning the UKHACC, (UK Health Alliance on Climate Change) – the Alliance of health care workers members organisations in the UK eg. the Royal Medical Colleges, BMA and Royal College of Nursing etc. (the FPH was a founder member in 2016) has launched their report on Building a Healthier Food System for People and Planet –  “All consuming”   http://www.ukhealthalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/UKHACC-ALL-Consuming-Building-a-Healthier-Food-System-for-People-Planet.pdf 

We were reminded that agriculture and food is responsible for over a quarter of global emissions. The production of red meat outweighs most other  food production and utilises 77% of land use on food.  

Eating more plant food makes a huge difference to the environment and the planet and is, of course, better for our health.  Please reduce your meat intake.   

Through the new FPH Climate and Health Committee we will try to bring in some actions that may make a difference to food consumption and waste.  

And if that isn’t enough for today, it is the day our MPs have voted for emergency measures for those of us in England to go into lockdown again tomorrow. The aim is to try to control the rising numbers of Covid-19 and get the R number back down to less than 1. Let’s hope it works.  

Sticking to the rules for lockdown is important. All of us in PH understand that.  

Unfortunatley not all of the English population (or even some MPs) seem to understand that. We shall have to wait and see what happens over the next month.  

So on that note, of two major global health issues – Covid-19 and climate change…I am sure tomorrow will be less action packed, as we all start into our routines of lockdown again  – most importantly –  stay safe.   

Sue Atkinson
FPH Board Member and Chair, FPH Climate and Health Committee


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