In 2010 new regulations came into force to complete the modernised legal framework for health protection in England. Three sets of regulations complement the updated Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which was substantially amended by the Health and Social Care Act 2008. It is anticipated that there will be a further set of international regulations to complete the modernisation of the legal framework at ports, and that these will be consulted on in due course.
The Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/659) came into force on 6 April 2010 (except for provisions relating to laboratory notifications, which applied from 1 October 2010). These improved and extended the previous arrangements for statutory notification of infectious diseases in England.
The Health Protection (Local Authority Powers) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/657) and the Health Protection (Part 2A Orders) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/658), which also came into force on 6 April 2010, set out the powers and duties of local authorities and justices of the peace to take action to protect public health from a risk of significant harm from infection or contamination, if voluntary cooperation cannot be secured. They provide a wider and more flexible set of powers than previously existed.
This new system builds on the Health and Social Care Act 2008 which introduced an 'all hazards' approach to health protection whereby the need for action is determined by the potential for a case of human infection or contamination to present a significant public health hazard, rather than by reference to a list of specified infectious diseases, as had been the case since the late 19th century.
The regulations facilitate prompt investigation of, and response to, public health risks. They require registered medical practitioners (RMPs), and laboratories, to notify not only a specific list of notifiable infectious diseases and causative agents (listed in Schedules to the regulations), but also requires RMPs to notify cases of other infections (such as those caused by new or emerging diseases) or contamination, such as with chemicals or radiation, that may pose a significant risk to public health.
The Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency, in consultation with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, published guidance on the updated health protection legislation covering the recently amended Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and new regulations made under it. The guidance explains notification requirements of registered medical practitioners and laboratories testing human samples as well as health protection powers available to local authorities and justices of the peace.
Health protection legislation guidance 2010 [external link]
The purpose of this toolkit is to provide a ‘grab and go’ suite of documents that can be used by authorised officers to deal with practical situations when they arise. The toolkit was produced through partnership working between Environmental Health at Lewes District Council, and the Surrey and Sussex Health Protection Unit of the Health Protection Agency. It complements, rather than replaces, the formal guidance.
Health Protection Regulations 2010 Toolkit [external link]