ASH response to the Policy Exchange report: Saving a lost decade

10 November 2020

ASH response to the Policy Exchange report: Saving a lost decade

Think tank Policy Exchange today published a report showing that  the Government will miss by decades its ‘flagship general election manifesto target’ to extend the number of healthy life years by five by 2035.[1] The report makes recommendations for how this gap can be bridged by reform of the public health system and greater investment.

Richard Sloggett, Senior Fellow of Health and Social Care at Policy Exchange said in launching the report that :

“The decision to abolish PHE [Public Health England] must be accompanied by a new deal for public health. One with greater national leadership, ministerial accountability, investment and linked through to the wider ambitions of economic levelling up the UK.”

ASH strongly agrees with the conclusion in the report that the cuts to public health funding in the 2015 Spending Review were a ‘major political misjudgement’ and that ‘New funding should be unlocked for the Public Health Grant’.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said:

“The Policy Exchange call for a new national mission to improve the health of the nation, underpinned by increased funding for the public health grant, must be heeded by the Government. These recommendations are fundamental to the successful delivery of the Government’s manifesto commitments to increase healthy life years, reduce health inequalities and level up every part of the country.”

The report sets out its recommendations in light of the Government decision to abolish PHE noting that: “A Government Steering Group has been established to explore options and this paper is designed to inform the thinking of this group.”

The detailed proposals include:

  • Creating a new Institute for Health Improvement housed in the Department of Health and Social Care, reporting to Ministers and the Chief Medical Officer
  • Setting new Ministerial targets for improvements in healthy life expectancy
  • Publishing a new national prevention strategy

The report also recommends that local authorities should continue as lead public health commissioners, working collaboratively with the NHS, with regional public health leaders maintained within NHS regional offices.

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) added that:

“It’s three months since the Government said it would abolish Public Health England by next Spring.[2] The clock is ticking, yet all we’ve seen so far are a range of vague options for how the essential functions of public health will continue to be delivered once PHE is gone.[3] The Policy Exchange report proposals on the new structure for public health will benefit from close scrutiny by the public health community, but they are a welcome step forward.“


Notes to editors

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see: ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

ASH staff are available for interview. For more information send an email to or contact Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive, ASH on 07976 935 987


[1]  Sloggett R. Saving a lost decade: How a new deal for public health can help build a healthier nation. Policy Exchange. November 2020.

[2] Matt Hancock. The future of public health. Speech as delivered at Policy Exchange 18th August 2020.

[3] DHSC Policy paper.The future of public health: the National Institute for Health Protection and other public health functions. Published 15 September 2020