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Prevention better than cure

24th January 2008

No sooner have we stopped counting down the days to Christmas than the clock has been reset and the countdown has started towards the NHS’s 60th anniversary celebrations in July. In our family it is traditional to have a day off on your birthday - just to rest - but the NHS is clearly not going to have such a luxury. Not only is reform continuing but it is going to be “deeper and wider? than ever. And organisations that don’t deliver risk being taken over by Foundation Trusts so it’s going to pay to get FT status as soon as possible; Foundation Trusts are clearly the future.

Over the last decade, the NHS budget has almost tripled and now stands at close to £100bn (still only four times the amount used to bail out the government’s new bank) but healthcare seems to be on a path of ever increasing demand as the population profile becomes more biased towards the elderly and increasing chronic disease takes its toll.

Over the coming years, there are going to be lots of debates about how we fund our health service in the future - a difficult topic for any incumbent government to take on - so it was both welcome and somewhat predictable that the Prime Minister focussed attention on the one area that might make a difference and at least delay the difficult decisions if not make them go away entirely.

That one area is prevention. Commentators are split on what they believe were the main messages in the Prime Minister’s speech at King’s College on 7 January, but many pointed to the new screening processes for a range of conditions such as heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, strokes and kidney disease. The NHS has made huge strides in the last few years to providing a responsive service; waiting times are down significantly and patients get treated faster than ever. It has never been in a better position - or a more serious predicament - to move the focus to prevention and early intervention.

Ten years ago, placing the added burden on the system of patients who screened positive in any disease group would have been unthinkable; the service just couldn’t have coped. So it is to the credit of the government and the NHS (not to mention the £60bn extra investment), that we are even able to contemplate it now. But it’s a long game. As Julian LeGrand, the chair of Health England, says; “If a commissioner is faced with a choice of bailing out the local acute trust or engaging in a preventive programme which is not going to pay out for 20 years, which are they going to do?? For success, we will need to hold a steady course and not be deflected by short term pressures.

 

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Article Information

Title: Prevention better than cure
Author: Chris May
Article Id: 7268
Date Added: 24th Jan 2008

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