This guidance explains new measures, concerning the notification and management of infectious diseases, which were recently incorporated into the Health Act 1956 and which commenced on 4 January 2017.
Targeted primarily at notifying health practitioners and laboratories, and infectious disease managing public health practitioners, the guidance explains how the new legislation should be applied.
Notification processes, and the diseases to which they relate, have been updated in the Health Act and supporting Health (Infectious and Notifiable Diseases) Regulations 2016 – particularly in relation to sexually transmitted infections. The guidance summarises the new identity protections for people who may have HIV, AIDS, gonorrhoea or syphilis, as well as the processes and forms for notifiable diseases generally, such as tuberculosis, meningococcal or measles.
Before the enactment and commencement of new Part 3A of the Health Act 1956, public health practitioners had comparatively stark choices about what measures to use to counteract the public health risk posed by infectious individuals. Reliance on voluntary measures, and if these did not work, compulsory treatment or detention, did not give practitioners sufficient flexibility or enable them to apply tailored and proportionate measures geared to the presenting risk. The rights of the individual were also not sufficiently safeguarded.
The guidance outlines the new measures, safeguards and overarching principles which encourage respect for individuals. The new measures include – mandatory contact tracing, various types of mandatory directions and court orders, urgent public health orders to detain the person for 72 hours, and prosecution as a last resort. This explanatory material is accompanied by scenarios showing how the measures should be applied, a summary of the relevant process requirements from the legislation, and templates which medical officers of health can use. The last of these contains information which should be conveyed to those who are subject to the new disease management measures.
While the guidance is not intended to be nor is a clinical guide or a substitute for checking the legislation itself, it refers to clinical guides and to the legislation in order to aid comprehension and its effective application.
Note: a summary of this document is now available: Summary of Infectious Disease Management under the Health Act 1956.