The future of health education and campaigning was under threat this week as the Health Education Authority closed, with 140 redundancies.

The HEA's successor, the Health Development Agency, will 'not be carrying out public education campaigns', its chief executive Richard Parish confirmed.

This year, campaigning will be split between the Department of Health and Lambeth Southwark and Lewisham health authority, with fewer staff and resources dedicated to the task.

The HEA will map the evidence base on public health promotion, disseminate evidence and set good practice standards.

Voluntary redundancies would account for 123 staff in the 1999-2000 financial year, Mr Parish said, with a further 14 set to leave in three months' time.

Three staff will be made compulsorily redundant. The HDA will take on 95 other HEA staff.

The total cost of all the redundancies will be more than£1.16m, which will come from savings from the HEA's budget, Mr Parish said.

He did not yet know the HDA's budget but said he had suggested that the DoH took more time to consider this in the wake of the chancellor's Budget statement.

Public education and campaigning work would be 'more directly managed by the DoH's communications department', while 'some work would be subcontracted to a new unit at LSL health authority'.

This would be covered by a service-level agreement with the DoH for 'a year in the first instance'.

But at the beginning of this week, an HA spokesperson had 'heard nothing about it'.

And with just 24 HEA staff transferring to the new unit, public health experts feared a 'loss of expertise'.

The unit's manager at the HA, consultant in public health medicine Dr Alan Maryon Davis, admitted that the 'operation would be scaled down somewhat'.

'The budget that comes across will be smaller than there previously was for that work, so there will be some scaling down.'

The 'national support unit' at the HA will produce resources for health education units around the country.

A DoH spokesperson said its communications directorate had a 'programme of education campaigns lined up for the year', but 'some of the final details haven't been worked out'.

He could not give figures for the number of DoH staff on the programme, but admitted there would be 'a significant reduction in the capacity to deal with health education and media work'.

UK Public Health Association spokesman Donald Reid said: 'It's a pity such a large, highly skilled team built up over years has been dispersed and much reduced in number.'