Totnes has become a regional centre for handling outbreaks of infectious diseases and environmental hazard incidents.
A new Acute Response Centre involving some 40 Public Health England staff is now based at Follaton House in Totnes – replacing a previous facility at Exeter which had become obsolete.
The new centre in Totnes is equipped with the latest communications technology so that it can handle anything from providing advice to a school about a flu outbreak to coordinating with other agencies in major public health incidents such as a chemical spill.
It is the first point of contact for GPs, hospitals, care homes and others making reports to Public Health England from across Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset.
Public Health England will then lead investigations, provide advice on treatment and infection control.
The new centre was officially opened by a ribbon cutting ceremony carried out by Director of Public Health England and medical director Paul Cosford.
Mr Cosford said: ‘Our acute response centres across the country perform a vital and demanding health protection service so I’m very pleased to open a new one in Totnes.’
Public Health England South West Centre director, professor Debra Lapthorne, added: ‘Most people will never experience the work of our acute response centres, but what they do behind closed doors helps to protect local communities.
‘This Acute Response Centre will better enable our health protection staff to work effectively and finally bring all our staff in the south of the region under one roof.’
South Hams Council chairman Peter Smerdon and executive director Sophie Hosking were among guests invited for the opening, which also included representatives of local authority areas served by the centre.