Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Information from Mr Nigel Emery  

I think that it is important that Public Health training is also made available to EHOs. Obviously EHOs already have some expertise in this area but it should be built upon and as the medical scenario changes, as inevitably it will, EHOs need to be kept updated so that we are not applying outdated modes of control and we are informed about new threats. It may also be the case that EHOs may be able to contribute into the training regime in order to give some hands on" experience of the problems which can arise in contact tracing, investigation into causes of outbreaks and tackling the conditions which have led or could lead to infection from poor housing, work conditions etc.

Overall Summary from an EHO's Perspective

There needs to be effective control of communicable disease both inside and outside the health service and this means fast reactive communication between all concerned. To make this happen, not least because of resource considerations, it would help EHOs in some LAs if it were made a statutory requirement as I believe it is in Scotland (National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 section 13). [1]However, there is a national EHO shortage which is set to get worse in the future so a response from LAs could become a problem in the face of competing priorities, statutory or otherwise. One solution to the resource shortage would be to place the environmental health function at a more regional level which would be more in line with the role because we are mainly dealing with national issues not local ones. The Environmental Agency and the HSE are examples but, of course, creation of the new Health Protection Agency might be the opportunity to incorporate environmental health into a nationally more effective setting. Certainly, at present EH units are subjected to competing demands from a variety of different government agencies and departments and from their own parent authority which can't all be satisfied. This is why I am sceptical of the idea of partnerships which are not backed up by ring-fenced resources and we know that in reality ring-fenced resources are not going to be made available; even if they were it still does not get over the EHO recruitment problem which has root causes closely connected with LAs being perceived as an unattractive work setting for undergraduate school leavers.

Mr Nigel Emery

Weymouth and Portland Borough Council

1   Food Standards Agency/Scottish Executive Health Department publication 2002, Guidance on the Investigation and Control of Outbreaks of Foodborne Disease in Scotland". Back

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