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Wednesday 20th June 2018

What is the future for the NHS?

6th January 2010

Writing in The Times, Lord Crisp, chief executive of the NHS and Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health 2000-2006, says Britain’s health service can learn from the Third World.


Significant advances have been made in healthcare through technological and scientific progress but while personalised care is already a reality for some patients, not everyone is benefiting.

The problem is that while diseases have changed, the health services in richer countries have not.

The NHS is still a 20th century service based around hospitals, highly trained professionals and high-tech equipment with little role for patients and carers.

But with more patients with long term conditions, they require services at home and in the community.

When Tony Blair asked me four years ago to review how best to use UK expertise to help improve health in developing countries, I also realised there was much we could learn from those who ran temporary clinics in the slums of Asia and rundown hospitals in Africa as they found new solutions to help patients.

They did not treat health in isolation.

Some innovations have been adopted in the west. New York has copied Mexico’s successful Oportunidades programme, which uses financial incentives to encourage parents to get children vaccinated or to attend prenatal classes.

Unconstrained by history, these poorer countries train people differently, create new sorts of organisations and involve families and communities and concentrate more on promoting health rather than on just tackling disease.

They don’t have our baggage, or our resources.

Governments can do more to promote the exchange of ideas and people and help health workers from richer countries to work in poorer countries.


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