Consultation for the review of the Public Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1967

Consultation opened on 29 September 2015. Closing date 18 December 2015.


DHSSPS is reviewing the Public Health Act (Northern Ireland) 1967 (‘the 1967 Act’). The 1967 Act has not been updated in any significant respect since it became law. In the intervening years new threats to public health have emerged, and public health legislation in other jurisdictions and internationally has been updated to enable governments and public authorities to respond effectively to a wide range of incidents and emergencies involving not only infectious diseases but also chemical and radiological contamination.


Consultation description

The main reasons for reviewing the 1967 Act are concerned with:

  • doubts about the adequacy of existing powers for responding to modern potential public health emergencies
  • the narrow scope of the Act, which is concerned almost exclusively with infectious diseases whereas other jurisdictions have adopted an ‘all hazards’ approach
  • the need to ensure that the legislation is consistent with the WHO International Health Regulations 2005
  • the need to ensure that authorities’ powers are compatible with the Human Rights Act 1998 and ensure that actions that interfere with an individual’s freedom are proportionate to the public health risk
  • the need to clarify the powers of entry and role of authorised officers to carry out certain functions

This consultation is intended as the first of two consultations.The second consultation, subject to ministerial agreement in the next Assembly mandate to introduce a public health bill, will invite views on specific policy proposals for possible provisions to be included in the bill. For the present consultation the questions are more basic and general, addressing, for example:

  • categories of threat to human health that should be grounds for state interventions
  • powers to quarantine individuals, and how to limit and control such powers
  • whether compulsory medical treatment is ever justified
  • how to balance the need to protect the public’s health with the rights, needs and dignity of the individual
  • whether a public health bill for Northern Ireland should be a bill to amend the 1967 Act or a ‘fresh start’ bill

The consultation document is short and is accompanied by technical supplement which contains more detail and analysis and consideration of comparable legislation in other jurisdictions.

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