The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is the mechanism for coordinating the health sector response to significant public health emergencies. It facilitates the sharing of information between the Department of Health and its agencies. It is a long-standing structure, which has been utilised over many years to provide a forum to steer strategic approaches to public health emergencies in Ireland and mobilise the necessary health service responses.
Recommendations and updates from National Public Health Emergency Teams are communicated to the relevant parties to inform policy and operational approaches, depending on the nature of the emergency. Key to this is the role of the Minister for Health, who receives recommendations and updates for consideration in terms of health policy and further consideration, if needed, for a wider cross-Government approach. This public health approach is in line with the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) for COVID-19 provides guidance, support, and expert advice on the development and implementation of a strategy to manage COVID-19 in Ireland. It advises Government on the public health aspects of what is a cross-Government response to COVID-19.
The NPHET is committed to transparency in how it conducts its business. Directly following each meeting, the recommendations of the NPHET are communicated by letter to the Minister for Health for consideration, and these recommendations are used to assist Government in informing its decisions in responding to the public health emergency.
The relevant actions and decisions arising from NPHET meetings are also communicated to the HSE CEO by letter, as required.
Actions and recommendations arising from the NPHET meetings are communicated publicly and are announced through press releases. In addition, the Department of Health and NPHET Members provide regular media briefings to this end. Planned briefings are now scheduled twice weekly. There is also a dedicated webpage on the Department of Health website, where agendas and minutes of previous meetings are published as soon as practicable, once approved by the NPHET:
The Deputy is advised that as NPHET meetings involve discussions relating to the deliberative process of the Department of Health (including opinions, advice, recommendations, and the results of consultations), public broadcast thereof is not facilitated. However, as detailed above, the NPHET and the Minister for Health ensure the greatest possible level of transparency around NPHET meetings through the publication of the NPHET’s recommendations, letters, and minutes, as well as via the Department’s communications work.