POLITICS
05/07/2013 03:51 BST | Updated 05/07/2013 06:08 BST

Elderly Will Get Named NHS Medic Responsible For Their Care, Jeremy Hunt Says

Every vulnerable elderly person will have a named medic who is responsible for their care, the Health Secretary has announced.

The move means that one doctor or nurse will be responsible for the patient "at all times" when they are outside of hospital, Jeremy Hunt said.

The initiative aims to help people know who to turn to if they get confused by the myriad of care organisations.

elderly care

Every vulnerable elderly person will have a named medic who is responsible for their care

Hunt will announce the plans in an attempt to make the NHS a "more personal service for vulnerable and elderly patients".

At an event celebrating the health service's 65th birthday, Hunt will say: "The NHS is the nation's most loved and most successful institution.

"In 65 years, the NHS has quite simply done more to improve people's lives that any other institution in our history, and its equity and excellence make us the envy of the world. Today we express our thanks to the millions of hard-working NHS staff who literally save lives round the clock. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

"But as we celebrate, we also reflect. The world today is very different to 1948. The old model was curable illnesses where you went into hospital unwell and came out better.

"Yet most people now leave hospital with long-term conditions which need to be supported and managed at home.

"Fully one quarter of the population now has a chronic condition, including 2.8 million with diabetes, three million people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and 2.3 million with heart disease - all of whom need radically different models of care to what the NHS has been accustomed to.

"So the challenge today is to provide integrated, coordinated, out of hospital care. Something where the NHS, with our tradition of family doctors and primary care, could lead the world.

"But to do that we need to know that there is a clinician accountable for vulnerable older people in the community, just as there is a consultant responsible for them in hospital.

"As a member of the public, I would like that to be my GP - but whoever it is, they should be named so that patients, families and carers all know where the buck stops.

"We are proposing to ask NHS England to make sure there is a named clinician responsible for every vulnerable older person, whether or not they are in hospital."

Hunt will also launch a new organisation - Genomics England - which will be tasked with mapping the DNA of 100,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases.

Ministers hope the initiative will revolutionise NHS treatment by helping to develop new tests and better care that could save thousands of lives.

Announcing the move last December, Prime Minister David Cameron said he wanted to ''push the boundaries'' by introducing genetic sequencing to a mainstream health service for the first time.

Hunt said: "Just as expectations are changing, so is the science that drives advances in treatment. If we really want this to be the century of personalised care, then we must radically improve our understanding of disease and how to design treatments better tailored to individual patients.

"Combine the information from genomes with the information in digital medical records - all done with proper consent - and you have the most remarkable treasure trove about the make-up of diseases with huge clues as to how to treat them.

"Genome sequencing is already helping identify the best treatments for some cancers. But there is huge potential in other areas.

"The establishment of Genomics England will provide the investment and leadership necessary to sequence genomes at scale and pace, driving down costs as it drives up the investment in a totally new sphere of science.

"Pioneering scientific research going hand in hand with commercial investment. The birth of a world-beating life sciences industry right here in the UK. Creating jobs and prosperity, yes. But also unlocking the key to more sustainable healthcare."

Writing in The Sun newspaper, Cameron promised not to ignore the challenges the NHS faces.

Citing his own experiences with the NHS and its treatment of his disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009, the Prime Minister said: "I yield to no-one in my love of the NHS.

"But we don't demonstrate that love by covering up things that go wrong. Or by pretending the NHS can just ignore the big challenges it faces."

Celebrating the NHS's 65th birthday, he pledged to "go further than ever before" to make improvements and fix its problems, from exposing poor quality of care to sharing performance data.

He also underlined the Government's pledge to transform how care is organised away from hospitals, and reiterated its backing for improvements in medical science, such as Genomics England.

Cameron said: "That is my vision for the future of the NHS: compassionate, personalised, state-of-the-art care, on the side of patients and professionals.

"It's what patients expect. It's what doctors and nurses want. And it's what this government is delivering."