Freedom of speech promised for public health doctors
7 January 2013
Employees at PHE (Public Health England) will be free to speak out whenever they wish, its chief executive has maintained.
The claims, by chief executive designate Duncan Selbie, follow the publication of a staff code of conduct.
Mr Selbie said staff would be ‘unfettered in their freedom’ and there would be no restrictions for those employed with the new national public health organisation.
The BMA had been concerned over the ability of public health doctors to speak out on behalf of their populations as they would be classed as civil servants within PHE, which has been set up as an executive agency of the Department of Health. Civil servants follow a managerial code that would prioritise the interests of ‘public service’ over patients.
But Mr Selbie said: ‘The code of conduct, which has now been agreed and was published before Christmas, makes it clear that we are free to speak as well as to publish whatever we want, wherever we wish.’
BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Penelope Toff welcomed the code and said its principles should be closely protected.
She said: ‘Its assurances reflect a firm commitment by PHE to embody scientific rigour and quality at every level and recognition by the department of health of the value of maintaining an independent and credible voice for public health.’
Public Health England chief executive designate Duncan Selbie discusses the code of conduct