Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, has outlined a programme of “deeper and wider” reform of the National Health Service (NHS).
Addressing health professionals and King’s College, London, Mr Brown said that the 21st century would bring three new challenges to the NHS: embracing technological change, meeting the growing expectations of healthcare and adapting to a priority-shift from infectious disease to the management of chronic conditions and “lifestyle diseases”.
Mr Brown said:
“These challenges themselves mean that the NHS – with its central commitment to healthcare free for all at the point of need – is today even more relevant, more essential, than ever.
“Our goal: deeper and wider reform – building on the values, principles and idealism of the NHS to create for the next decade an NHS that is: here for all of us but personal to each of us; focused on prevention as much as cure; and strong and confident enough to put real control into the hands of individuals and their clinicians.”
The Prime Minister outlined preventative methods – such as new screening processes for heart disease, colon and breast cancer, strokes and renal illness – saying that these conditions affected the lives of over six million people, cause 200,000 deaths a year and account for a fifth of hospital admissions.
Mr Brown said that the NHS would also address the better management of long-term illnesses such as diabetes and asthma. With 60 percent of the UK population projected to be clinically obese by 2050, the Prime Minister emphasised better preventative care of “lifestyle” diseases, stressing new measures such as providing at least five hours sport a week for school children and increasing activity-based treatment.
The Prime Minister announced that there would be a new NHS constitution, laying out patients’ expectations in terms of service, as well as their own responsibilities, such as keeping hospital and doctors’ appointments.
Patients in return would receive greater treatment choice, such as managing their own treatment at home and better access to doctors out-of-hours.