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New focus on prevention is great leadership and could be seminal moment, says NHS Confederation
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, responding to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s expected announcement of his prevention vision
"This is great leadership from the Secretary of State. If backed by action and resources this could be a seminal moment.
"Preventing illness and disease is huge area with enormous potential – much of it extending well beyond the NHS. Our members have a vital part to play by working in partnership with local government. We need to support interventions that have been shown to work – from drugs that prevent strokes and heart disease, to tackling obesity among children. We need a new mind set which does not necessarily expect payback immediately.
"Of course, we have been here before and the recent record of cutting public health spending must now be reversed. Local government was given responsibility for public health in 2012 and since then has seen swingeing cuts in their budgets, including cuts to the specific public health grant they receive. The new money the government has just allocated to the NHS in England excluded central funds for public health making the percentage seem larger, and suggesting that public health was not a priority.
"We need an end to misleading statistics and mixed messages, and we hope this announcement signals just that.
"As part of that we must do more to tackle smoking. The war against tobacco has been one of our greatest public health success stories of the last generation, but we have not done well enough in supporting poorer communities. Smoking is the single biggest cause of inequality in death rates between rich and poor in the UK. It accounts for more than half the difference in death rates between poor and the better off in the UK. Yet incredibly in England we have seen cuts in smoking cessation services.
"It’s time for real intent around prevention and an acceptance that if we are going to make this a priority, it will mean tough choices about how health money is spent."
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