Jeremy Hunt has promised to make dementia care in the NHS the best in Europe by the next election, in his first major speech as health secretary.
Mr Hunt said he wanted to use his predecessor’s reforms to ‘change the culture’ in the NHS and improve the outcomes of patients with major diseases, including dementia.
Addressing the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today, Mr Hunt said he also wanted to escalate the use of technology within GP surgeries to enable online booking of appointments.
He also warned managers he was talking with the Care Quality Commission to make them more accountable for the care that is provided in hospital.
Mr Hunt replaced Andrew Lansley as health secretary last month, but has been accused by the opposition of being ‘invisible’ since then.
But in his first major speech since that appointment, Mr Hunt attacked the Labour party and vowed that he would see through Mr Lansley’s reforms.
He said ‘[Andrew] Lansley’s reforms are brave, they are right and they will make the NHS stronger.
‘If Andrew was the health minister who set the structure, I want to be the health secretary to help change the culture and the system to make it the best healthcare system to look after people in the world.’
He further said he wants the UK to have the best survival rates in Europe for major diseases, including having the best dementia care in Europe by the next election.
He said: ‘I want to see a big change in the way we look after people with dementia.
‘With the right care and support people can live well for many years. However shockingly less than half of cases are diagnosed. Which means thousands of people doing without the medicine that can hold the condition at bay.’
‘The Prime Minister established the dementia challenge: to radically improve attitudes, treatment and research. I want us to raise our game further – and say by the next election we will be among the best in Europe at dealing with this most challenging of conditions.’
He added that access to technology needed to be improved, including giving patients access to their records and the ability to book GP appointments online.
He said: ‘The final challenge I will mention is the technology revolution which has barely touched the NHS… Why can you book a hotel online but not make a GP appointment?’
‘The Prime minster announced on Saturday a new £140m fund for nurses. That is a good start but we need to do much more.’
He also hinted at further repercussions for hospital managers delivering bad care.
He said: ‘As of today I have asked my department and the CQC, how can managers be held accountable? And as of next year hospitals will be assessed on how many patients would recommend their service to friends and family.’
Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said the plan to improve dementia care was welcome, but the NHS reforms had made it less likely that this could be acheived.
He said: ‘We agree with him on the massive importance of meeting the challenges posed to the NHS by the ageing population, but elderly care in particular requires a joined-up, collaborative approach.
‘The changes currently being implemented in the NHS in England will generate more competition and more fragmentation.’