The Society of Chief Officers of Environmental Health in Scotland (SoCOEHS) were approached by COSLA regarding potential enforcement of the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 and confirmed support of these powers. SoCOEHS has been working hard, liaising with Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS), to agree a consistent approach and has been in discussions with COSLA, SOLACE and Police Scotland. This is a significant public health measure and the SoCOEHS, through the Chair, believe that the environmental health profession, working with colleagues, has a key role to play. In a short period of time a Governance Group has been established, which comprises Alan Morrison, Brian Lawrie, the Chair/Vice Chair of SCOTTS, and COSLA, and Brian is leading a subgroup looking at the detail of the work. Key actions to date are:
• All 32 local authorities have arrangements in place to authorise officers (principally environmental health and trading standards professionals) to enforce the provisions of the Regulations, and in particular Regulations 3 and 4 as they relate to premises and social distancing.
• All 32 local authorities have agreed, in principle, the enforcement approach of Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforcement, with the move to enforcement where public health is compromised or there is no cooperation by business.
• There is work ongoing at a local authority level in preparedness of the new duties.
• There has been liaison with Police Scotland at a local level and in some instances, (North and South Lanarkshire), formal memorandums put in place
• Contact has been established with the single point of contact in Police Scotland Policy Unit and will maintain these relationships, in order to promote consistency and partnership working.
• The SoCOEH and SCOTTS have an agreed approach to these requirements and have established a working group which will seek to promote a common approach across Scotland. Already this has agreed a format for a Prohibition Notice and is preparing other guidance and examples of best practice. The group will also develop reporting datasets which will demonstrate the important work and outcomes being delivered.
• Some issues or difficulties with the practical application of the Regulations have been identified and its important that these are directly fed into any review.
• COSLA agreed that the established SOCOEHS/SCOTSS working group are the experts in respect of legislative scrutiny, and they should be the ones to liaise with Scottish Government.
This provides an opportunity for environmental health to demonstrate our effectiveness in delivering effective public health controls and working in partnership to deliver these measures.
For further information, please contact your Chief EHO as things will have developed by the time you read this article, or alternatively Alan Morrison or Brian Lawrie at the SoCOEH.