A new report has called for better recruitment of environmental health professionals that were designated as ‘key workers’ in the first Covid-19 pandemic.
Working with local authorities, environmental health practitioners have a range of skills and wide knowledge base, which focusses on the impact of the environment on human health.
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, due to funding and capacity issues.
Both trainees and apprenticeships are key routes into the profession, as practical training is a key part of the qualification process.
The survey results highlighted that environmental health professionals 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.
Most were involved in enforcing business restrictions (98%), advising businesses on trading safely (97%), developing COVID related policies and procedures (95%), managing local outbreaks (78%), emergency planning (69%) and contact tracing (59%). Additionally, some EHPs also ran food banks and other community support programmes.
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
Our research clearly points to shortages of fully qualified and experienced officers and we need to put plans in place right away to ensure that we are supporting young people and career changers to enter the profession as well as providing the necessary funding to support employers in training the next generation of environmental health practitioners. We know that many people have lost their jobs during the pandemic and many have had to rethink their career path. This is therefore a way for the Government to begin to address the shortages of environmental health professionals and help to get people back into work.