Abbott slams PM for putting public safety on backburner during Olympics

MP Diane Abbott has accused Prime Minister David Cameron of putting public safety during the Olympics second place to his plans to drive through NHS reorganisation.

The Shadow Health Minister and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington is demanding an urgent review of the government’s plans, which are due to take place just weeks before the Olympics.

Her calls follow a Health Protection Agency warning yesterday the upheaval could pose extreme risks when Britain hosts the world’s biggest sporting event next summer.

The NHS’s main public body, responsible for disease control and monitoring as well as scientific and public health advice during emergencies, faces abolition itself in the shake up.

Ms Abbott said: “I believe that the 2012 Olympics, with the eyes of the world on Britain and millions of visitors flooding into the country, is exactly the wrong time to introduce far-reaching organisational changes into public health and emergency planning.

“They are throwing the system into chaos at the same time as the Olympics.

“At the very least, these plans should be put on hold until after the Olympics. It is time that this government listened to public health professionals.

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“Alarm bells are now ringing within the Health Protection Agency, local authorities and also local Primary Care Trusts, and increasingly there will also be concern amongst the public about the “considerable risks” that the HPA refers to,” she added.

In the past, the risk to public health at the Olympics has come from incidents as diverse as food poisoning and terrorism.

A Department of Health spokesman said business continuity will be maintained during the transition of Health Protection Agency activities to Public Health England.

“The Department of Health has established an Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response team to ensure the ability of the Department of Health and the NHS to respond to major emergencies continues to be robust and to ensure the requirements of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are met,” he added.