Prevention and Service Integration: The Way Forward for the NHS

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Age-Net looks at what Simon Stevens, David Cameron, the RCN and Unison have to say about the future of the NHS

It’s been the hot topic of the decade, and continues to be the same today. Especially now, one week in of a new Tory Government. Speaking at an event at a medical centre in Handsworth, Birmingham, David Cameron outlined his plans for a seven day NHS. A National Health Service where hospital doctors and GPs will be accessible to the public on weekends and the evenings…  away from the traditional daytime surgeries only.

How exactly that is planned cost wise is still unknown, but the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that nurses will resist changes to working conditions without sufficient remuneration.

A statement that was challenged by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, responding with the accusation of Peter Carter, (General Secretary of the RCN) “jumping the gun.”

This comes at a time when David Cameron is set to tighten legislations in an effort to make it more difficult for those working on the front line to walk out through strike action. One that’s already attracting opposition as network rail are set to strike this bank holiday, putting stress on the travelling public.

There’s certainly a lot for Mr Cameron to confront, but the one largest challenge is that of the NHS. Even if the seven-day plan doesn’t roll out any time soon, there is still the £8billion finance gap needing bridged between now and 2020, just to keep the NHS afloat.

Simon Stevens, NHS Chief Executive for England highlighted that it needs a collaborative approach. One where the public pull together for the greater good of keeping the NHS accessible, by focusing on preventative health care.

Many of the longer-term illnesses are preventable. Diabetes for example. Too many sugary drinks, unhealthy eating habits and numerous other lifestyle factors can cause diabetes. A condition that can be prevented.

Just like many of the avoidable conditions associated with high alcohol consumption and smoking. If it weren’t for binge drinking, food, and unhealthy lifestyles, the NHS would not have as near a deficit as it has today.

A deficit that is only set to increase if drastic action isn’t taken, warns Simon Stevens.

The three areas of Prevention for the Future of the NHS

  1. Binge Drinking – Alcohol abuse costs £5BN per year collectively in public services between extra policing, accident and emergency admissions, and RTAs.
  2. Smoking has always been a priority for the NHS to address and that will continue with efforts being made to encourage more smokers to stub it out.
  3. Diet choices relating to lifestyle were highlighted with a rather bold statement, reflecting that a third of parents are unable to recognise when their child is seriously overweight.

The focus for the NHS will be to insist that we all take our responsibilities seriously and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

While David Cameron and Simon Stevens layout their plans for the future of the NHS, with the RCN putting an emphasis on nurses not taking a pay cut, then the British Medical Association state that significant funding will be required in many parts of the NHS.

The message is clear that nobody knows how the NHS will be funded.

The GP Access Fund

£50M was set aside in 2013 to pilot access funds that would enable doctor’s surgeries to provide out of hour care. The aim being to ensure that everyone has access to a GP, anytime of the day, and anytime of the week. The care should be there when you need it.

The aim is to cut hospital admissions at peak times. As David Cameron outlined in his first major speech since the landslide win…

“It’s a shocking fact, but mortality rates for patients admitted to hospital on a Sunday can be 16% higher than on a Wednesday, while the biggest numbers of seriously ill patients arrive at the weekend when hospitals are least well equipped to handle them. So seven-day care isn’t just about a better service – it’s about saving lives.”

That is certainly a shocking statistic. However, if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to need to visit an A & E dept. at the weekend, you’ll no doubt have noticed the majority of waiting patients, and those being attended to are there due to alcohol consumption. Namely far more than they can handle.

That is the problem that Simon Stevens is aiming to address. Getting people to drink responsibly.

While David Cameron has pledged to fund the seven-day access scheme, Simon Stevens is reiterating that strong action needs to be taken on everyone’s part.

That means eating more healthy foods, stubbing out the cigarettes, and cutting back on alcohol consumption.

The comments of Simon Stevens during the speech were of particular significance, given his close relationship with PM David Cameron, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and the Chancellor George Osbourne. Each of whom have backed Steven’s NHS Five Year Forward View, pledging to find the £8 BN required by the year 2020.

The Additional Funding

The £8 billion is only the minimum required to keep the NHS afloat. In reality, for the additional services that every political party was promising during the election – it would need an additional £30 billion to fulfil the promises at the rate the NHS is spending currently.

The £8 billion pledge isn’t really an option. Current staffing levels are sufficient to cope with the demand during normal business hours, but additional staff for the seven day NHS is where the shortfall in funding will need addressed.

The RCN, and Unison have both raised concerns and issued a stark warning that if the funds are to be paid for by staff pay cuts, industrial action will be pursued.

A lot of promises were made during the election run up, and now that the Tories have won victoriously, the question on the nations mind is whether the promises will be delivered.

The first major speech from David Cameron in relation to the NHS, has put the message out to the public that the  government are committed to making GPs more accessible, but the cost for which is unknown.

The only thing we do know from Simon Stevens is that a strong focus on preventative care is needed and that requires all of us to sit up and take responsibility for our own health.

What’s your opinion on the changes to be implemented to the NHS?

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