The Government will set out a strategy to tackle six major conditions contributing to England’s ‘burden of disease’, the health secretary has announced.
In a statement to Parliament, Mr Barclay listed these major conditions as cancers; cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and diabetes; chronic respiratory diseases; dementia; mental ill health; and musculoskeletal disorders.
‘Tackling’ these conditions is ‘critical’ to achieving the Government’s manifesto commitment of gaining five extra years of healthy life expectancy by 2035, and its ‘levelling up’ mission to narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy by 2030.
‘This work combines our key commitments in mental health, cancer, dementia and health disparities into a single, powerful strategy, said the health secretary.
Although light on detail, Mr Barclay’s announcement set out that the forthcoming strategy would aim towards patients with multiple long-term conditions receiving ‘whole-person’ care, with a greater focus on ‘generalist medical skills’ in the NHS workforce.
He said: ‘Our workforce model needs to adapt, reflecting that the NHS is caring for patients with increasingly complex needs and with multiple long-term conditions. We need greater emphasis on generalist medical skills to complement existing deep specialist expertise in the NHS, supporting clinical professionals to heal with whole-person care.’
By shifting the focus to ‘good health’ and ‘early intervention’, this will ‘reduce demand downstream on health and care services’, Mr Barclay pledged.
This ‘Major Conditions Strategy’, and the upcoming ‘NHS Long Term Workforce Plan’, will ‘work together to set out the standards patient should expect in the short term and over a five-year timeframe’, he added.
The plans will see health and care services, local Government and NHS bodies will be required to ‘work ever more closely together’ in order for the people of England to live ‘healthy, fulfilled, independent and longer lives’.
And Mr Barclay noted that people living in England’s most deprived places ‘live, on average, 19 fewer years in good health than those in the least deprived places’.
Therefore, the strategy will set out interventions that the Government can make ‘to ensure that ICSs and the organisations within them maximise the opportunities to tackle clusters of disadvantage in their local areas where they exist, he said.
This ‘will include addressing unwarranted variation in outcomes and the care people receive in the context of the recovery from the pandemic’, and be informed by the ongoing review into ICSs led by former health secretary Patricia Hewitt.
However, the health secretary’s announcement comes as he has yet to publish the Government’s long-awaited white paper on health disparities, produced last year. The RCGP and BMA were among 155 organisations to urge the Government to recommit to publishing the white paper in October last year.
Professor Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, said: ‘We have seen a worsening of many health outcomes in England in the last year. For example, the number of deaths has been above the level expected.
‘The prevention, early diagnosis and management of long-term conditions will play an important role in trying to improve health outcomes. The management of long-term conditions should not therefore be overlooked when there is so much attention on urgent care in the NHS and it’s encouraging to see the Government focusing on this area.’
Kate Lee, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘Just last week we delivered to Downing Street an open letter signed by thousands of campaigners calling for delivery of the promised 10-year plan for dementia. They expect and deserve urgent action.
‘It’s encouraging to see that the Government recognises dementia as one of the biggest health and care challenges of our time, but we don’t want action on the distinct challenges of dementia to be lost within a broad strategy covering so many other serious health conditions. We need a bold, ambitious plan for dementia and it remains to be seen whether this is the route for that to happen.’