What are UK health regulations

nurseHealth regulations refer to information, guidance and rules that should be followed in respect of public health. The rules laid down are agreed by member countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO), and are legally binding on all the member States.

These regulations are written down in a document called International Health Regulations (IHA) with purpose of standardising what needs to be done to protect, prevent and control any global health issues. It also provides information on the best ways to ensure good health care standards are applied throughout the world.

What’s in the IHA?

Amongst other things, there is a list of major diseases which the World Health Organisation needs to be told about if ever there is an outbreak. These include small pox, polio and human influenza, the latter prevalent at the moment with the recent outbreak of Swine Flu. The regulations also lay down what individual countries must do to ensure that their own citizens are informed and protected against major health issues. In Britain, this role is carried out currently by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

Health Protection Agency

This is a government funded independent body that was set up in 2003. Its purpose is to protect the general public from contagious and infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It does this in a number of ways:

  1. Informing the general public on how best to stay healthy and avoid contacting anything that might be hazardous to health. It gives out regular information either through the media or via its own publications.
  2. It keeps health professionals – doctors, nurses, etc up to date with the latest information.
  3. It provides Government with information and data which helps Ministers’ make the right decisions. This is particularly important as Government’s role is to prevent panic.
  4. By using a coordinated approach to health, the HPA can also prevent potential threats whether these are natural, accidental or even deliberate.

As well as the main Quango, there are also 26 local health protection units, 8 regional microbiology laboratories and 37 hospital laboratories.

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Food Standards Agency

While first thoughts about health are usually connected with disease, health regulations also cover food and drink.

Until fairly recently, most people were unaware of how the food and drink bought was manufactured. However, to ensure what the public eat and drink is both safe and healthy, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was created at the end of 1999. It became operational in 2000.

Like the Health Protection Agency it is a Government funded Quango that provides information to both the general public and Government alike about food safety, starting from the farm and finishing at the shop where it is bought. Its primary role is to ensure good health care standards are maintained including how food is grown, how animals are treated and how food is manufactured.

As well as giving out advice on such things as food hygiene and allergies, the FSA carries out research; it also works closely with local Trading Standards departments, food law enforcement officers and other public health agencies to ensure the end consumer is protected.