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'Systematic failures' on listeria deaths.

Byline: Report by David Banner newsdesk@expressandstar.co.uk

"Systematic failures" in public health led to the deaths of nearly 20 people including five linked to an outbreak of listeria, according to a former health chief.

Independent public health consultant Professor John Ashton described 17 deaths linked to separate outbreaks of listeria and streptococcus earlier this year as "serious failures" of the public health system.

The former north west regional director of public health from 1993 and 2006 said that since responsibility for public health moved to local government in 2013 public health establishments had been "whittled away" while budgets and salaries had been cut "dramatically".

Writing today in the Journal Of The Royal Society Of Medicine he warned that nearly a decade of austerity and "massive cuts" to local authority budgets had led to environmental health departments which were no longer able to "keep ahead of the threats to human health".

He added: "It is now time to digest these latest failings of a public health system that was only put in place six years ago as part of (former health secretary) Andrew Lansley's structural changes to the NHS and for public health.

"There is a schism in which the clinical perspective in local government has been disappearing and the links between local authorities and the NHS have become ever more dysfunctional.

"This has been reflected in the deterioration in performance in areas that include sexual health, immunisation and vaccination and screening programmes. "To add to the agony, ten years of austerity and massive cuts to local authority budgets have resulted in attrition of environmental health departments which no longer have the capacity to keep ahead of the threats to human health despite their best efforts."

Between writing his report and its publication the number of deaths linked to the listeria outbreak has risen from five to six and those from streptococcus from 12 to 13.

Prof Ashton drew comparisons with two major incidents that caused 41 deaths in the mid-1980s involving outbreaks of salmonella food poisoning and legionella.

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Publication:Shropshire Star (Shropshire, England)
Date:Aug 23, 2019
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