An open letter from Maggie Throup MP to UKHSA chief executive Jenny Harries has revealed the Government’s key priorities for the organisation between April 2022 – March 2023. UKHSA was central to the UK’s response to the pandemic, however, their influence and scope is evidently far more wide-reaching, as this document shows. There are several items contained within the letter related directly to the diagnostics industry which should be of great interest to members.
As the nation’s expert dedicated health security agency, UKHSA will seek to protect the UK from any global health threats and prevent their reaching our shores. The use of environmental, digital, and biological surveillance will ensure that the organisation is constantly monitoring infectious diseases and other significant health threats and remained primed to act rapidly should a threat emerge.
UKHSA should also align with Government strategy – including manifesto commitments and the NHS Long Term Plan – and will work with the OLS to help deliver the Life Sciences Vision and assist DHSC on global health security policy. The organisation will also be heavily invested in research, working alongside industry and academia in collaborative programmes.
The key priorities for UKHSA during 2022 and 2023 have been split into three main areas:
- Reducing harm from infectious disease and other health security hazards, and achieving more equitable outcomes
- Preparing for future health security hazards so that our health, society, public services and economy are less impacted
- Strengthening health security capability to improve the effectiveness of our local, national and global response
In order to adequately monitor health threats, UKHSA are expected to collaborate with system partners on surveillance systems and share appropriate data for public health purposes. UKHSA will work with other public health teams to deliver the Tuberculosis (TB): action plan for England (2021 to 2026) with the aim to achieve a year-on-year reduction in TB incidence and in-UK TB transmission, and enable the UK to meet its commitment to the WHO elimination targets by 2035.
UKHSA will help to develop and deliver a COVID-19 testing regime in vulnerable settings, accounting for different risk levels relative to the wider UK population. The agency will work towards combatting AMR by ensuring it meets its commitments as outlined in the UK 5-year action plan for antimicrobial resistance 2019 to 2024 and will support DHSC’s work to develop the next 5-year national action plan.
To improve public sexual health and reach the stated target of zero HIV transmissions in England by 2030, UKHSA will provide scientific and analytic expertise in the detection, prevention and control of sexually transmitted infections and HIV through agreed commitments and future strategies. UKHSA will support the progression of the Science Hub Programme business case, which carries significant investment and aims to boost UK infrastructure for public health purposes.
In a significant move, UKHSA is to establish the Centre for Pandemic Preparedness (CPP), a world-leading hub focused on protecting the UK’s health through stringent pandemic preparations. In conjunction with this, UKHSA will work with public health partners and government to formulate future strategies for surveillance and diagnostics.
UKHSA will be instrumental in deciding future COVID-19 testing policy. They will provide their expertise on the use of COVID testing – including at the UK border – and provide symptomatic testing for hospital patients who require a test for clinical management purposes or in support of their treatment.
Testing will also be extended to: those at serious risk from COVID-19; symptomatic testing to those who live or work in high-risk closed settings; care homes to manage outbreaks; and asymptomatic testing during high-risk periods to adult social care staff and a small number of visitors in other settings such as prisons, personal care and NHS patient-facing staff.
COVID preparedness will be aided by the UKHSA’s stockpiling of lateral flow tests and the ability to begin surge testing rapidly through mobile testing units. Laboratory capacity will be maintained for PCR tests and genomic sequencing capacity will be preserved for variant surveillance.
Alongside playing a vital role in domestic health security, UKHSA will represent our nation globally on international health regulations, collaborating with the EU and WHO. The agency will help to achieve the overall goals of the Global Health Security Agenda for 100 countries to strengthen international health regulation capacities in at least 5 technical areas to a level of ‘demonstrated capacity’ by 2024.
UKHSA will work alongside the WHO to improve global health surveillance and contribute to international pandemic preparedness through their expert public health advice. They will also help to fulfil the UK’s G7 and G20 commitments and tackle AMR on an international scale by leading the WHO Collaborating Center for AMR, among other contributions. Their expertise will also be offered to global programmes for the purposes of surveillance, including genomic approaches.
UKHSA will engage with the leadership of the ‘100 days mission’: the commitment to deliver vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics within 100 days of a future pandemic threat being identified. Moreover, the individuals within the agency will work to strengthen partnerships and collaborations internationally.
If you would like to view the full letter, with all priorities and details outlined in their entirety, please click here.