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‘Reform is essential’ – Sajid Javid sets out his vision for the NHS

The Health Secretary set out his plans to reform care.

08 March 2022

People will be encouraged to “foster” adults in need and be able to order blood tests “as easily as ordering a burger” under new health reforms set out by the Government.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said that the case for reform in the health service was clear as he pointed out that the health budget is “now bigger than the GDP of Greece”.

He stressed the need for more personalised care for patients, better performance and a strong emphasis on preventative care.

Mr Javid also urged people to harness the “power of families” to make a difference for their loved ones health, recalling when his father quit smoking at the request of his mother.

“When I was around five, my dad was a smoker,” he said.

“I remember standing at the top of the staircase and overhearing a conversation my mum was having with my dad, she said ‘if you die, your boys won’t have a dad’ and he never smoked again.

“That kind of intervention is more powerful than most of us can imagine.

“We’ve got to recognise the power of families to make a difference when it comes to health care, whether it’s stopping drug addiction, or dealing with depression, there’s no more powerful motivating force than family.”

Mr Javid gave a speech at the Royal College of Physicians which set out his vision for how the health service will evolve to cope with rising challenges, including people living longer with complex conditions.

He said that reform is “absolutely essential” as he dubbed the Department for Health and Social Care the “high-spend department”.

“This year the NHS will spend its original 1948 budget, adjusted for inflation, once every month.

“Our health budget is now bigger than the GDP of Greece,” he said.

Mr Javid said that if there was not reform then “taxes and waiting lists would rise”.

He announced a raft of plans including the expansion of the Shared Lives scheme which he dubbed “fostering but for adults”.

“One of the most exciting schemes to help with care at home is called Shared Lives where people in need of care go to live with carers and become like an any other member of the family.

“Think of it like fostering but for adults.

“I’ve heard some wonderful stories of people living together for decades.”

Some 9,000 people are supported by the scheme but Mr Javid wants it to be expended across the country with more carers recruited.

Meanwhile he said that he wanted to capitalise on the momentum of patients using the NHS app during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Patients will be encouraged to use the NHS app first instead of calling GPs under the plans.

Health chiefs hope people will use their phones to book appointments, communicate with their surgery, see test results and get advice to manage their health and wellbeing.

Mr Javid said: “I want that app to be the new front door to the NHS.

“Health needs to embrace the revolutions that have already come to banking and shopping.

“It needs to be easy for doctors and patients to order blood tests as it is to order a burger or a salad on the phone.”

Mr Javid also set out more detail on plans for patients to be given the “right to choose” where they have their care, including in private hospitals.

Initially the offer, which will see people given the choice of where to receive their care the the NHS footing the bill for transport and accommodation costs if it is out of area, will be for those who have been waiting for care the longest but then to the wider population.

“Choice is an intrinsic good and it must be available to everyone,” he said.

“Disparities in health are exacerbated by the fact that it’s often the middle class people that live in the leafy suburbs that are more able to push the system to work for them.

“I want choice for all, not just the privileged few.”

Other announcements from the Health Secretary include:

– a 10-year cancer plan to be set out later this year.

– A “proper long term work force plan”.

– The NHS will also publish a digital health plan later in the spring, which will include rolling out more “virtual wards”, where patients can be monitored from their homes.

– The rolling out of electronic records to 90% of trusts by December 2023 and 80% of social care providers by March 2024.

– a focus on the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

– The new NHS reforms will also result in a near doubling in the number of people offered “personalised” healthcare, including the right to control the budgets spent on them for long-term conditions.

– Mr Javid pledged to publish a health disparities white paper to ensure that prevention is “hardwired” into the NHS.

On prevention, he said: “The NHS is significantly bigger than it would have been if we had done a better job at preventing avoidable disease.”

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