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Public health chiefs set out NHS plan targets

NHS must focus on cutting smoking, obesity and cardiovascular disease

Mark Gould

Friday, 07 September 2018

The new NHS long-term plan due for publication before the end of the year should commit to tough targets focusing on the prevention of smoking, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and obesity, according to Public Health England (PHE).

Speaking at the NHS Expo 2018, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE, said that previous plans, such as the Five Year Forward View, have made good progress, but they have not delivered the promised radical upgrade in prevention.

He called for more decisive action in the new long-term plan, saying there is an urgent need to prevent – not just treat – ill health, and the time has come to be ruthless in our prioritisation and investment in preventative strategies.

“With the right long-term plan in place we can remove smoking from England, halve childhood obesity and the number of avoidable deaths from cardiovascular disease," Mr Selbie said.

“These three priorities are where the NHS and PHE should focus efforts. It is not that other priorities won’t matter, but these will need to matter most.

“Successful delivery will require action from every part of civil society. We must pull together to use our resources and we must engage the public directly in the choices they are making about their own health and wellbeing," he added.

PHE says the NHS should commit to achieving a smoke-free society by 2030 and a population prevalence of less than 5%. It says smoking should no longer be seen as a lifestyle choice, but as "an addiction that warrants medical treatment".

Everyone who smokes must be offered the support they need to quit and NHS trusts should be instructed to step up their efforts in establishing a smoke-free NHS by 2020.

CVD is the leading cause of disability and death in the UK. Yet PHE says an estimated 50-80% of CVD cases are preventable.

PHE says the long-term plan could save 250 – 500 lives each year across England by prioritising the identification of people who are at risk of developing CVD. Better detection and management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atrial fibrillation could prevent more than 9,000 heart attacks and at least 14,000 strokes from happening in the next three years.

Almost seven million people have benefitted from the NHS Health Check since 2013 It is one of the biggest prevention programmes in the world and the long-term plan must continue to encourage its uptake and follow-up if we are to reap the benefits.

One in three children leave primary school overweight or obese and new figures show the levels of severe obesity in children aged 10 to 11 are higher than ever before. The childhood obesity plan has a commitment to halve the rate of childhood obesity by 2030.

The NHS long-term plan should build upon this to target adult obesity. One way to achieve this is by increasing weight management support provided.

Making it routine for people to have their body mass index (BMI) measured and recorded in primary care and pharmacy settings will provide an opportunity for healthcare professionals to give advice, promoting national guidance on diet and physical activity.

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