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Urgent action needed to support local authorities in training the next generation of environmental health professionals

Sustain member the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has published the results of its workforce survey of environmental health professionals, which finds that over half of local authorities are not taking on trainees or apprentices in environmental health.

Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters, unsplash

Credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters, unsplash

Environmental health professionals make sure homes and work places are safe, hygienic and healthy and for example inspect businesses for food hygiene and food standards.

Main highlights of the survey results included:

  • There are difficulties in recruitment of qualified and experienced environmental health practitioners.
  • EHPs have played a major role during the pandemic, including providing business advice, strategic planning for local authorities and supporting the vulnerable in the community. Around 8 out of 10 EHPs working for local authorities were redeployed last year in response to the pandemic, due to their varied skillset and infectious diseases training. Some EHPs also ran food banks and other community support programmes.
  • Budgets and resources are still under pressure and are having negative impact on local services.
  • A lack of funding in local authorities to recruit new trainees and apprentices in EH leading to shortages of qualified and experienced EHPs across England.

 

Recommendations call for a range of stakeholders to come together to support the future of the environmental health profession. In particular, the report asks central Government to:

  • Provide ring-fenced funding to pay for the salaries of environmental health apprentices
  • Provide increased funding to support regulatory and public health functions in local authorities
  • Deliver the recommendations of the Cross-Government working groups in England
  • Establish a new role in England of a Chief Environmental Health Officer to mirror roles already in place in other UK nations reporting to the Chief Medical Officer, and work with the newly established UK Health Security Agency, which will seek to prevent future pandemics.

 

The report also asks local authorities to:

  • Support environmental health managers in recruiting environmental health apprentices and trainees, ensuring these roles are not replacing existing roles
  • Provide safe and effective staffing levels and training budgets for environmental health  teams

 

Dr Phil James, Chief Executive of CIEH, said: "Environmental health professionals have played a huge role during this past year, from ensuring that businesses re-open safely to supporting vulnerable members of the community and putting together strategic plans locally. Now it is time to focus on this multi-skilled profession and provide support to the people who have been working tirelessly to protect us in recent months.”  

 

The full report is available on the CIEH website.

27 Apr 2021
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