28 Mar 2007 12:02 PM
Proposals set out to update law on infectious diseases

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release (2007/0072) issued by The Government News Network on 28 March 2007

Caroline Flint, Minister for Public Health, welcomed the publication today of a consultation paper setting out the Government's proposals for changes to the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. She said,

"The case for updating legislation on the control of infectious diseases has been recognised since the 1980s. I am delighted that we are able to publish today our proposals for doing so.

What we need is modern, up-to-date legislation that takes account of the latest scientific knowledge and allows us to respond, in an effective and proportionate way, to the threats posed by the spread of infectious disease or contamination by chemicals or radiation. The consultation paper sets out our proposals for achieving that, and I hope that a wide variety of interests will respond to the consultation paper."

The Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, said:

"The statute book has been cluttered up for far too long with outdated references to things such as common lodging-houses and infectious library books. This consultation provides an opportunity to think about what 21st century legislation should replace the existing provisions. I hope that as many people as possible will take this opportunity to help shape future law on infectious diseases and contamination."

The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act was passed in 1984. It consolidated earlier legislation much of it dating back to the 19th century. The Act gives local authorities certain powers to prevent and control the spread of infectious disease. The consultation paper proposes that these powers should be brought up-to-date, in particular by:

Supplementing current powers that allow an infected person to be medically examined and detained in hospital with powers that may be more effective at controlling the spread of disease such as keeping a person in quarantine
Increasing the scope of the Act to cover contamination by deliberate or accidental release of chemicals or radiation as well as infectious disease

Notes to Editors

The consultation is concerned with the law in England and runs until 25 June 2007.

Public enquiries to 020 7210 4850.