Firstly, congratulations to the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP who has been reappointed with an extended policy brief as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Flu has remained at the top of the news again this week as the NHS continues to work through its busiest time of the year. To all those working in the NHS, the wider public health system, local health protection teams and in social care, thank you for going above and beyond to keep the service going in such challenging circumstances. Yesterday PHE activated the ‘Catch it. Bin it. Kill it’ campaign to spread the message that the transfer of flu can be mitigated by simple actions, such as catching our coughs and sneezes in tissues and washing our hands. Our National Infection Service teams at Porton and Colindale are providing the NHS with the virological and epidemiological surveillance data used to monitor the prevalence of flu and which the NHS uses to be proactive in response to a rise in cases. Thank you to everyone who works on this, not only when flu cases spike, but throughout the year.
Towards the end of last year our HIV prevalence data showed a significant drop in new HIV diagnoses in gay and bisexual men in London. While this is excellent news, there is still work to be done to ensure that this trend is seen in other population groups. On Wednesday this week, alongside Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, local borough leaders and NHS England, we signed up to the Fast Track Cities Initiative, which brings together all those already working to tackle HIV across the capital. By signing the declaration, the Mayor joins leaders from around the world and over 200 other cities to accelerate our ambition to end new HIV infections in the capital by 2030. More on this can be found here.
Yesterday the Prime Minister launched the Department for Energy, Food and Rural Affairs’ 25 Year Environment Plan, which outlines steps for a cleaner, greener Britain. The plan sets out how the Government aims to improve the environment over a generation by creating richer habitats for wildlife, improving air and water quality and curbing plastic in the world’s oceans. Open spaces such as our national parks have many benefits for both physical and mental health. PHE has worked closely with DEFRA on the plan and we look forward to contributing to its full range of ambitions.
And finally, yesterday an NHS Smokefree Pledge, developed by the Smokefree Action Coalition, was launched in Parliament by Bob Blackman MP and the Minister for Public Health, Steve Brine MP. PHE and NHS England fully support the pledge, which publically commits NHS hospitals and mental health services to become truly smokefree by 2019. With one in four hospital beds occupied by a smoker and the fact that for every early death of a smoker there are twenty others who suffer from smoking related diseases, this is an opportunity for the NHS to ask, advise and support those who wish to quit.
With best wishes,