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Letters—Scrapping our public health body is all about deflection

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Issue 2719
Tories are scapegoating Public Helath England for their failures
Tories are scapegoating Public Helath England for their failures (Pic: Flickr/Number 10)

Scapegoating is behind the Tory decision to scrap Public Health England (PHE).

It is definitely about political deflection from the government’s failures during the coronavirus pandemic. Ultimately, these were policy decisions and not science decisions.

It’s quite a big shock for myself and other workers at PHE and there’s a lot of frustration and uncertainty.

At PHE we have “health protection” and “health improvement”. Health protection is the National Infection Service. That’s all the labs and surveillance of infectious diseases from vaccine preventable stuff to exotic diseases, such as Ebola.

Health improvement is all the non-infectious stuff, whether it is dementia, alcoholism and drug addiction or obesity.

We don’t know what’s going to happen to the “health improvement” side of PHE. People aren’t against reorganisation, but we can’t see a good case for it.

Public health document is  ‘an insult to the lives of frontline workers’
Public health document is ‘an insult to the lives of frontline workers’
  Read More

PHE has not been the greatest employer over the years.

When it was formed in 2013, there was an issue with our terms and conditions.

We used to be part of the NHS’s Agenda for Change contracts, but were then forced onto civil service terms and conditions.

Lots of people are on the old conditions. And if you had reached the top of the old scales, you probably hadn’t had a pay rise in ten years.

And now there’s worry about creeping privatisation of labs, which would probably be the first bit to go.

Health secretary Matt Hancock’s framing of pandemics as part of “national security” doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

The new Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), set up a few months ago, is nestled in with counter‑terrorism.

It’s a bit weird and there’s no clear reason why.

This is about the direction of public health, where at the moment we have non-infectious, infectious and labs together.

The problem is one of underfunding and understaffing during the last ten years.

A Public Health England worker
by email

Scots polls show up a turnaround

The latest Scottish opinion poll shows 55 percent saying yes to independence and 45 percent saying no.

This is important for two reasons.

The poll is the fourth in a row to show a growing majority in favour of a break with the union. It is also significant because it is a complete reversal of the independence vote in 2014, which was 55 percent no and 45 percent yes.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is also on course to have an absolute majority in the Scottish parliament after the 2021 election.

Despite some major SNP failings, people in Scotland are fed up of being governed by divisive, racist and incompetent Tory governments.

On the same day as the poll was announced, people rallied for independence in Bannockburn, Stirling.

Neil MacKay, one of the organisers, said, “The movement is frustrated and desperate for action. Things are going to need to change.

“Either the leadership steps up to the plate and pursues a credible strategy or there has to be a change of leadership.

“I can see us escalating our activities, working more with trade unions in a more joined up approach so we can make Scotland ungovernable.”

Clearly there are major issues confronting the independence movement in Scotland, which the Scottish National Party is unable to address.

Bob Fotheringham

We found moving quickly is the key for anti-racists

Anti-racist activists in the north east of England had to react quickly last weekend to a spate of racist stickers that had gone up across the region.

The stickers particularly targeted “race mixing”.

One read, “No Pollution. No Race Mixing. No Modern Art.” Another read, “Coal miners were white slaves.”

The stickers were a calculated attempt by the far right to sow racist ideas.

Anti-racists swiftly covered up the stickers and found new supporters in the process.

Many people were outraged by the Nazi stickers and got in touch with us to ask for Stand Up To Racism ones so they too could get involved in covering them up.

Together we found the key was to act fast to stop the racists in their tracks before they established themselves—and to build anti-racism in the local communities.

N Jones

Fight for freedom for Algerian journalist

I am asking Socialist Worker readers to join the campaign for imprisoned journalists in Algeria.

Earlier this month a tribunal in Algiers sentenced Khaled Drareni to a three-year prison sentence over his reporting on the Hirak protest movement.

This is the movement for democracy and social justice that has been raging for over 18 months.

The court also handed two-year prison sentences to political activist Samir Ben Larbi, and national coordinator of the families of disappeared Slimane Hamitouche.

This was over their online publications and their participation in the protests.

Khaled is the founder of the Casbah Tribune news site, a correspondent for the French TV channel TV5Monde, and a representative of Reporters without Borders in Algeria.

All those who stand for people’s rights should stand with the political prisoners of Algeria.

Khaled must be released and all charges dropped against him.

Please sign the petition at

Dhea Addi
West London

Now plotting for profits

Owen Smith, who failed in his bid to replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2016, has a new job.

No longer an MP, he has become “UK government relations director” for BMS, one of the world’s biggest medical drugs companies and a supplier to the NHS.

According to its website it is involved in projects with 15 different NHS trusts.

No doubt Smith’s links in parliament will help his new employers open even more doors.

Phil Allsopp

Exams—we can win more

Popular pressure has forced climbdowns over exam grades but the chaos continues.

The deeply flawed exam system did at least allow a small minority from poor areas the chance of a better life.

But whenever possible the socialist alternative should also be argued.

All students should be free to choose their subjects and level of study.

Better tutoring would help any who had overreached themselves to self-relocate to a more appropriate course and level.

It would avoid the annual stress suffered by students, parents and educators.

Dermot Smyth

Colour can’t unite us all

It’s sad to see some people on the liberal left embracing the Democrat choice of Kamala Harris for vice president.

Assuming that because Harris is a person of colour she will act favourably towards all those in the streets demanding Black Lives Matter is both lazy and wrong.

Harris has been a willing participant in one of capitalism’s most serious crimes—the criminalisation and incarceration of black people.

Her Democrat party is determined to defend this vile set up, and Harris will doubtless play her part.

Lolita Gooden
New York, US


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