The Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the South West provides advice and support in the control of communicable diseases and environmental hazards to the national health service and other organizations in the South West of England. This covers a population of over 5 million people, the largest English geographic region. The SW has large areas where zoonoses are an important public health problem and cities with areas of deprivation where we have high incidence of TB and sexually transmitted infections.
Our regional office is currently located on the outskirts of the town of Gloucester but will be moving to the centre of Bristol in May 2012 with railway links to London (1hour 45 minutes) and other major towns. The city of Bristol, the largest in the South West region.
Services in the regional office include regional epidemiology, health emergency planning, environmental health and administrative staff. The regional office coordinates the activities of two Health Protection Units, South West (North) which covers Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire and Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall & Isles of Scilly. The South West (North) unit is co-located with the regional office.
The regional Epidemiology Unit in the South West is responsible for the routine and enhanced surveillance of communicable diseases in the region, as well as providing advice and assistance to the units in incident and outbreak investigation and control.
The regional epidemiology unit is accountable to the Regional Director and comprises one Regional Consultant Epidemiologist; a senior health protection nurse; a public health specialist, and an information team with an information manager, and five information staff. Other members of staff include a Regional Business Manager, Regional Communications Manager and associated support staff. The office also provides regular training placements for UK trainees in Public Health. These are an important contribution to the extensive work carried out in the Region.
The Unit's five main functions are:
Surveillance of communicable disease. Regional data is collected via routine reporting and special epidemiological surveys. Following the analysis of these data, reports are generated and disseminated to those professionals for use in maintaining and providing preventative measures. HPS (SW) manages a range of regional reporting systems for communicable disease, including laboratory reporting, clinical reporting and statutory notification systems and environmental monitoring. Some of our reports are available at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/southwest/publications.htm
Investigation and control of communicable disease. HPS (SW) staff provide support and advice to public health physicians and others in the control of communicable disease. When a disease episode is of national importance or an outbreak is geographically widespread, HPS (SW) staff work closely with their locally based public health physician colleagues, hospital laboratories, NHS authorities and local authorities during the epidemiological investigation.
Emergency planning and environmental health. This unit in HPS (SW) provides advice and support to local authorities on decontamination and evacuation, toxicological and epidemiological advice on likely health effects, the appropriateness of industrial operational conditions, clinical advice on antidotes and medical treatment, and personal protective equipment.
Epidemiological research. HPS (SW) undertakes research projects in association with academic departments or research institutes in particular Bristol University. It includes descriptive studies and analytical studies such as case-control studies or cohort studies. HPA SW has recognised national expertise in the fields of sexual health and hospital acquired infection.
Teaching and training in communicable disease epidemiology. Senior HPS (SW) staff lead in courses and seminars for public health workers and others concerned with health protection. A number of specialist registrars in public health medicine and microbiology have been placed on attachment at HPS (SW) to enable them to gain field experience of communicable disease control and health protection issues.
EPIET fellows will have opportunities to participate in all main activities carried out by HPS (SW). Based on the fellow's previous experience and interest, appropriate assignments can be arranged. Placements can also be arranged with a local Health Protection Unit where the trainee can gain experience with the first line of response to local health protection problems. The unit has close links with the University of Bristol and the fellow will have access to a series of relevant short courses in epidemiology and statistics. The fellow will also have access to other training opportunities from the South West Public Health training scheme.
The regional epidemiologist for the EPIET fellow will be identified as trainer for the period of his/her training. For specific tasks and assignments, the appropriate consultant for the particular project will supervise the fellow.
Number of EPIET fellows trained at institute: Six (2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011) Germany, Netherlands (2), Sweden (2), Czech Republic, Malta.
Available as a traning site for Cohort 2015: TBD