Public Health England

Public Health England

Public Health England (PHE) is an executive agency of the Department of Health (DH) which is the expert national public health agency which fulfils the Secretary of State for Health’s statutory duty to protect health and address inequalities, and executes his power to promote the health and wellbeing of the nation.

It was established on 1st April 2013 to bring together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations into a single public health service, which has a mission to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities.

PHE has operational autonomy from DH and has an Advisory Board with a non-executive Chairman and non-executive members.

It works transparently, proactively providing government, local government, the NHS, MPs, industry, public health professionals and the public with evidence-based professional, scientific and delivery expertise and advice.

PHE ensures there are effective arrangements in place nationally and locally for preparing, planning and responding to health protection concerns and emergencies, including the future impact of climate change. PHE provides specialist health protection, epidemiology and microbiology services across England.

Upper tier and unitary local authority have a legal duty to improve the public’s health and local Health and Wellbeing Boards bring together key local partners (including NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) who have a duty to address health inequalities) to agree local priorities. PHE supports local authorities, and through them, CCGs by providing evidence and knowledge on local health needs, alongside practical and professional advice on what to do to improve health, and by taking action nationally where it makes sense to do so. PHE in turn is the public health adviser to NHS England.

PHE is responsible for:

  • making the public healthier and reducing differences between the health of different groups by promoting healthier lifestyles, advising government and supporting action by local government, the NHS and the public;
  • protecting the nation from public health hazards;
  • preparing for and responding to public health emergencies;
  • improving the health of the whole population by sharing their information and expertise, and identifying and preparing for future public health challenges;
  • supporting local authorities and the NHS to plan and provide health and social care services such as immunisation and screening programmes, and to develop the public health system and its specialist workforce; and
  • researching, collecting and analysing data to improve our understanding of public health challenges, and come up with answers to public health problems.

PHE employs 5,500 staff (full-time equivalent), mostly scientists, researchers and public health professionals. It has eight local centres, plus an integrated region and centre for London, and four regions (North of England, South of England, Midlands and East of England and London). PHE works closely with public health professionals in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and internationally.

Mapping of PHE local centres to Local Pharmaceutical Committees

Contact details for PHE local centres


PHE governance

Framework Agreement

The Framework Agreement, between DH and PHE, sets out PHE’s overarching governance arrangements.

PHE Board

The PHE Board meets at least four times a year. Led by its Chairman, it is responsible for providing strategic advice on the running of PHE, assuring the effectiveness of PHE’s corporate governance arrangements, and for advising the Chief Executive on:

  • the development of PHE’s corporate plan and annual business plan;
  • PHE’s financial and performance objectives, and progress on meeting those objectives;
  • ensuring that PHE maintains independence, and the highest professional and scientific standards in preparing and publishing its advice, and commands the confidence of the professional and scientific communities related to public health; and
  • issues and policies, both within the public health system and from other government departments, which could impact on the strategic direction of PHE.

PHE and community pharmacy

PHE’s work has a significant impact on community pharmacy, as the policies and guidance created by the organisation will impact on the way public health services are developed and commissioned from community pharmacies and other providers. For example, PHE leads on the development and rollout of the NHS Health Check programme which is commissioned by local authorities and is a service provided by many pharmacies.

PHE also manages a range of national social marketing programmes which community pharmacies are frequently involved in, such as stop smoking campaigns like Stoptober and Quit Kits, and the Be Clear on Cancer early diagnosis campaigns.

Pharmacy and Public Health Forum

The Pharmacy and Public Health Forum was established in 2011 to bring together pharmacy and public health interests and to lead on developing, implementing and evaluating public health practice for pharmacy, taking into account both the Government’s and local public health priorities. The Forum originally reported to the Department of Health, but it now reports to Public Health England, although it retains a direct dialogue with Ministers.

The Forum originally worked on a range of key issues for community pharmacy, with six Task Groups taking forward different streams of work:

Task Group 1 is continuing to support the roll out of Healthy Living Pharmacies (HLPs).

Task Group 2 developed professional standards for public health practice for pharmacists.

Task Group 3 looked at consolidating and developing the evidence-base and research for pharmacy’s contribution to public health. An evidence base review was published in January 2014.

Community Pharmacy and Public Health – evidence base review

Task Group 4 identified how and where community pharmacy sat within the new system architecture for the NHS, public health and social care. A report was published by the NHS Confederation on behalf of the Forum in October 2013.

Task Group 5 considered the workforce and training implications of the recommendations from groups 1-4.

Task Group 6 considered the internal finance to make the Forum and its work sustainable in the future.

More details are available on the Forum’s webpage.

Related resources

For more information visit the Public Health England website.

PSNC Briefing 048/15: Public Health England’s annual plan 2015/16 (August 2015)
PHE has published its annual plan Who we are and what we do: annual plan for 2015 to 2016. The plan sets out the core functions of PHE and outlines key steps and actions for the forthcoming year. This PSNC Briefing summarises the elements of the plan that are of most relevance to community pharmacy.

PSNC Briefing 024/14: Public Health England’s business plan 2014-15 (October 2014)
In June 2014, PHE published their business plan for the forthcoming year – Who we are and what we do: Our business plan for 2014/15. The business plan sets out the organisation’s core functions, some of the organisation’s achievements in 2013-14 and an outline of their proposed actions for the forthcoming year to protect and improve the public’s health and reduce inequalities. This PSNC Briefing summarises the elements of the plan that are of most relevance to community pharmacy. 



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