Healthprotection legislation in England has been updated to give public authorities new powers and duties to prevent and control risks to human health from infection or contamination, including by chemicals and radiation. The revised measures are contained within the amended Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 and its accompanying Regulations. The new Regulations for clinical notifications came into force on 6 April 2010, and those relating to laboratory notifications started on 1 October 2010. The new legislation adopts an all hazards approach, and, in addition to the specified list of infectious diseases, there is a requirement to notify cases of other infections or contamination which could present a significant risk to human health.
Under the new Notification Regulations, there are no provisions for Registered Medical Practitioners (RMPs) to be paid fees for notifications. RMPs are expected to provide information that is a requirement of legislation needed to protect public health as part of their professional duties.
The statutory requirement for the notification of certain infectious diseases came into being towards the end of the 19th century.Diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, smallpox, and typhoid had to be reported in London from 1891, and in the rest of England and Wales from 1899. The list of diseases has been increased over the decades and now stands at about 30. Originally the head of the family or landlord had the responsibility of reporting the disease to the local 'Proper Officer' but now this is restricted to the attending medical practitioner, either in the patient's home or at a surgery or hospital.
The prime purpose of the notifications system is speed in detecting possible outbreaks and epidemics. Accuracy of diagnosis is secondary, and since 1968 clinical suspicion of a notifiable infection is all that is required.
Statistics were collected nationally at the Registrar General's Office, who already collected data on births, marriages and deaths. The Office was later known as the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS) and now as the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but in 1997 the responsibility for administering the NOIDs system transferred to the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (CDSC), now the Health Protection Agency (HPA) - Health Protection Services Division (HPS).
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