POLITICS
07/01/2019 00:01 GMT

NHS Vows To Save 500,000 More Lives With 10-Year Plan

New technology could prevent heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases.

Up to 500,000 lives could be saved under plans for the NHS in England over the next decade, health chiefs claim.

The NHS long-term plan involves greater use of high-tech treatments and diagnostic testing and could prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases.

NHS England chief Simon Stevens said the plan also “tackles head on” the pressures faced by health staff.

More than three million people will benefit from improved stroke, respiratory and cardiac services over the next decade.

About 23,000 premature deaths could be prevented by putting 100,000 people with heart complaints through a healthy living and exercise programme every year.

And the plans aim to ensure three-quarters of cancers are diagnosed early, when they can be treated more successfully, up from half at present.

As part of the drive to use new technology to help treat and prevent conditions:

  • The NHS will become the first health service in the world to offer whole genome sequencing for children with cancer to help target treatment specifically at their needs.
  • There will be genetic testing for about 30,000 people with dangerously high inherited cholesterol.
  • Pilot schemes will see “smart” inhalers given to respiratory patients to monitor their condition.
  • Cutting-edge scans and the potential use of artificial intelligence to improve stroke care.
  • Patients will be able to access health care at the touch of the button through a “digital front door” to the NHS.

Prime Minister Theresa May said the 10-year plan would “provide the best possible care for every major condition, from cradle to grave”, using the £20.5 billion a year funding boost promised by 2023/24.

But shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said “the Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS, imposing the biggest cash squeeze in its history” and now “need 10 years to clear up the mess they have made”.

Under the plan there will be a £4.5 billion boost for primary and community care, and investment in mental health services will rise to at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24.

About two million more people who suffer anxiety, depression or other problems will receive help over the next decade.

Stevens said the plan “keeps all that’s good about our health service and its place in our national life”.

“It tackles head on the pressures our staff face.

“And it sets a practical, costed, phased route map for the NHS’s priorities for care quality and outcomes improvement for the decade ahead.”

The plan was welcomed by campaigners, but experts warned that implementing it would be difficult.

Kay Boycott, chief executive of Asthma UK, said smart inhalers were “game-changing devices” that “track how often and well people are taking their asthma medication so that those most at risk of asthma attacks can be identified and helped before they need hospital treatment”.

Stroke Association chief executive Juliet Bouverie said the plan makes tackling stroke a “national priority”, adding: “We know this plan can and will ensure that more lives are saved and more people spared from serious disability.”

But Nigel Edwards from health think tank the Nuffield Trust said that while the plan’s aims were right “there are several big pitfalls ahead”, with the extra funding still below what experts thought was needed and a lack of key staff presenting “the biggest obstacle of all”.

Local Government Association spokesman Ian Hudspeth said the plan’s goals could only be fully realised if councils were properly funded to deliver social care and public health services.

“To help the NHS make its extra funding go further and alleviate the pressures on the health service, it is essential that the Government plugs the £3.6 billion funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 and reverses the £600 million in reductions to councils’ public health grants,” he said.