NHS needs radical shift towards disease and illness prevention, Hancock warns

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock at his office in Parliament London

He said: "Preventing illness and disease is huge area with enormous potential - much of it extending well beyond the NHS".

There's also a strong emphasis on people taking responsibility after their own health and receiving care in the community rather than hospital, all in the hope of "slowing the growth in demands on the NHS and making it sustainable for future generations", says the document, "whilst closing the gap between the richest and poorest".

According to Hancock, prevention will be at the heart of the NHS long-term plan, and will use new approaches like predictive prevention, which will explore how digital technology can be used to offer individuals precise and targeted health advice in the community.

Hancock wants to shift the balance by getting people to take more responsibility for their health.

Mr Hancock is expected to say: "It's about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking. It's about helping them make better choices, giving them the all the support we can, because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy".

Mr Hancock added the "numbers don't stack up" when it comes to spending on prevention as opposed to treatment.


Unveiling the policy paper at the annual meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes on 5 November, Hancock said: "In the United Kingdom, we are spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it".

Moreover, while the government has been trumpeting the £20.5bn as "the single largest cash injection for the NHS ever", it is important to note that "excluded central funds for public health, making the percentage seem larger and suggesting that public health was not a priority", said Dickson.

Turning Point's Victor Adebowale said "the idea that people should take responsibility for their own health' is part of what preventative services are about".

Commenting on the document, Sandra Gidley, Chair of RPS England Board, said the vision "need to be matched by appropriate investment" by the government, particularly in the backdrop of "continued pressure on local authority budgets and cuts to public health services".

Mr Hancock also called on employers to play a greater role in improving the health of their staff, and in their rehabilitation when they fall sick. While it's clear he sees that prevention isn't an optional extra, we need to see properly funded, accountable services delivered by a fully staffed nursing workforce backed by adequate resources.

And Labour MP Jonathan Ashworth said the plans follow "years of cuts and failed privatisation".

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