It is easy to see why some see the shake-up as government revenge and pre-emptive strike

“There is nothing in this proposal that would enable him in my mind to do anything that he can’t already do with his existing powers.” That was Andrew Lansley, the last health secretary to push through a controversial shake-up of public health in 2012, on his successor Matt Hancock’s justification for abolishing Public Health England.

He is not the only one questioning the logic, purpose, timing and potential effects of PHE being merged – via a reorganisation in the midst of the coronavirus crisis – into the new National Institute for Health Protection alongside NHS test and trace and the joint biosecurity centre. It is unusual for a government initiative on health to attract such a wide range of scepticism and criticism, from ex-Conservative MPs, senior doctors, scientists, public health experts and thinktank bosses.

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