The only reason that the same cannot be said of Public Health England (PHE) is that—unlike the WHO, which did good work once—this organisation has never been anything other than a pointless waste of time and money, stuffed to the gills with more than 5,000 charlatans, bullies, corrupt academics, and fake charity apparatchiks.
Formed in 2013, under Dishface Cameron's coalition, PHE has the mission is "to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities". The latter part of this mission statement is presumably justified by frauds such as Wilkinson and Pickett, who attempted to show that inequalities cause health problems in their Spirit Level treatise—an entire book full of lies that was comprehensively debunked by Chris Snowdon in his Spirit Level Delusion (disclosure: your humble Devil designed the cover for that edition).
As for improving the nation's health, there is little to indicate that the £4 billion that PHE spends each year has done much towards achieving this target.
Where the organisation has fallen down extremely badly is... well... just look around. The coronavirus pandemic has shown PHE to have been caught with its pants down—and as the infection has developed, the stupidity of its denizens is beginning to look a lot like malice.
It seems superfluous to detail every single fuck-up that has led us to this position, and in which the supposed guardians of the nation's health has failed—so I will concentrate, instead, on the vexed issue of testing.
Whether or not testing alone is of use in stopping the virus is something that can be left to the epidemiologists—and most seem to agree that testing for coronavirus is of paramount importance. If nothing else, being able to gather data about the true spread of the virus, how many people might already have had it, and how many people are likely to become extremely ill from COVID-19, is vital in assessing how long this lock-down should go on.
Because, as others have pointed out, declines in GDP also kill people—through a variety of well-established mechanisms, such as suicides (especially of business-people who are seeing their life's work wiped out), cessation of treatments for other health conditions (such as chemotherapy) or non-treatment of others, or poverty. And my god, but we are going to see some colossal declines in GDP—and, possibly, millions of businesses bankrupted (rising ever more the longer the lock-down goes on).
So, the exerts—both economists and epidemiologists—tend to think that testing is pretty important. So, how has PHE been handling that then...?
In a word, "shit".
The new "Testing Times" report from the Adam Smith Institute's Matthew Lesh has established that PHE has right royally fucked it up by refusing to involve other organisations—seemingly through ridiculous intransigence and incredible arrogance.
Matt Ridley sums up this farce in The Spectator today:
The contrast with the United States is especially striking. America was found badly wanting at the start of the epidemic when the federal Centers for Disease Control insisted on controlling the process of testing people for the virus. It 'sought to monopolise testing, discouraged the private sector developing its own tests and misled state and local authorities about efficacy of its tests', writes Lesh. After heavy criticism, it reversed course, decentralised the system and rapidly expanded testing.If, as many seem to, you believe that the lack of testing is costing lives—whether it is in NHS workers who are being sent to the front-line with little or no information, or those poor souls facing the ruin of their businesses, or those cancer sufferers now refused their therapies—then it is very clear that Public Health England has blood on its hands.
Germany and South Korea began farming out the work of testing samples to contractors from the very start. Britain did not. It initially sent all samples to one laboratory, at Colindale, in north west London. Public Health England also 'chose to develop and encourage the use of its own diagnostic tools, rather than seeking the development of a range of private sector tools and providing fast-track approval', Lesh finds. On 12 February, it began to use 12 other laboratories, but still only with its own tests.
When the number of people showing symptoms shot up in the second week of March, rather than outsource the testing, the NHS simply gave up testing all but patients in hospital. As if to reinforce the centralisation strategy, the government then announced the construction of a huge new testing facility in Milton Keynes, which may work well eventually but to date has been accumulating testing devices donated by universities some of which are sitting idle. The centralisation urge runs deep in this organisation.
By all accounts government ministers were calling for more involvement of the private sector from the start but their orders were being frustrated somewhere inside the bureaucracy of the NHS and Public Health England. The excuse was that the reliability of the tests had to be maintained at a high level, or else false positives and false negatives would cause confusion and danger. So even when other laboratories were eventually allowed to do tests, any 'presumptive positives' had to be sent to Colindale for confirmation right up till 28 March. The United States had suspended a similar policy on 14 March.
Here, private-sector providers were banging on the door of the NHS throughout, offering to do testing.
Yet centralisation is plainly a big part of the problem. Lesh finds that 'The UK’s Covid-19 testing has been dangerously slow, excessively bureaucratic and hostile to outsiders and innovation. There appears to be an innate distrust of outsiders. PHE has actively discouraged use of private sector testing. Even within the system, the process for testing and validation is very centralised.'
Despite spending billions of pounds of our money every year, the people at PHE have failed in their primary mission—"to protect and improve the nation’s health". When all this is over—or sooner, if possible—there needs to be a reckoning.
I think that it is fair to say that Public Health England has failed, comprehensively and catastrophically, at every point. When it comes to a real public health crisis—as opposed to bullying the population based on entirely baseless and fictional targets—PHE has demonstrated that, despite spending £4 billion of our money every year, it is entirely unfit for purpose.
If anything good can come out of this crisis, then it should be a very close examination of the purpose of our state agencies, and their performance against that purpose. PHE has failed on all fronts.
PHE's leadership (at least) must be sacked for gross misconduct, with the loss of all pension privileges: those at the very top should be prosecuted for culpable manslaughter. And no one who works for that organisation must ever be allowed to suck on the taxpayer teat ever again—there must be no "sideways" promotions for these useless bastards.
PHE should, ideally, be abolished. There is, alas, little hope of that but, if nothing else, its mission must be re-drafted: PHE must be focused on real public health issues—life- and economy-threatening pathogens such as COVID-19, and whatever comes next.
And PHE's record of failure this time around should be publicly displayed as a terrible cautionary tale of what happens when bureaucracies forget what their purpose is supposed to be. Or, of course, of how terrible bureaucracies are for getting things done effectively.
If there is a silver lining to this disaster, then re-thinking why these unaccountable state QUANGOs are spending so much of our money to so little effect must be a positive corollary.
Alternatively, we should burn it to the ground, shoot the staff, and sow salt into the remains.