New prevention drive on ill health

Author: Adrian O'Dowd

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GPs’ work in the future should be eased by a series of steps planned to boost prevention of ill health in England, according to the government.

The Department of Health & Social Care yesterday published a consultation on health prevention in the 2020s.

The green paper* says the 2020s will be the decade of “proactive, predictive, and personalised prevention” meaning targeted support, tailored lifestyle advice, personalised care, and greater protection against future threats.

It sets out various proposals including a new target to have England become smoke-free (defined as prevalence below 5% across society) by 2030.

There will also be a  new vaccination strategy launched by spring 2020 to maintain and develop the country’s current immunisation programme.

The strategy will include action on:

  • operational work to increase uptake of all recommended vaccinations across all communities and areas including childhood vaccinations, the seasonal influenza vaccine and uptake of the second dose of the MMR vaccine
  • enhanced use of local immunisation co-ordinators and primary care networks, ensuring the right mechanisms are in place to increase uptake (through the GP Vaccines review)
  • continued evolution of the immunisation programme, incorporating new, more effective and cost-effective vaccines and new uses for existing vaccines across the population.

The government is also set to publish another chapter of the Childhood Obesity Strategy, set to include action on infant feeding, clear labelling, food reformulation improving the nutritional content of foods, and support for individuals to achieve and maintain a healthier weight.

A mental health prevention package is mentioned in the document, which refers to steps already outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan such as:

  • doubling of funding for the diabetes prevention programme
  • all smokers admitted to hospital being offered support to stop smoking
  • establishing alcohol care teams in more areas
  • almost one million people to benefit from social prescribing by 2023 to 2024
  • embedding genomics in routine healthcare
  • reviewing the NHS Health Check.

Britsh Medical Association (BMA) board of science chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar, said: “It is welcome that the government has published the long-awaited green paper on healthcare prevention, and notably the commitment to work to reduce childhood obesity, an issue on which the BMA has called for urgent action.

"While the paper has a focus on personalised prevention, it has failed to commit to the effective population-wide measures that are required if we are to truly improve the public’s health.

“Without effective regulation, such as the extension of a minimum unit pricing for alcohol and the introduction of legally-binding limits on air pollution means, this cannot be a truly effective strategy.

“The green paper has been introduced at the same time as public health funding is being repeatedly cut. In order to truly prioritise prevention, the government must reverse these cuts and invest in services, while ensuring the public health workforce are motivated, properly resourced and mobilised across the system.”

Campaigning group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) welcomed the commitment to have England become smoke-free by 2030.

Deborah Arnott, ASH chief executive, said: “The government is to be congratulated on setting an ambitious target to end smoking by 2030. However, to achieve this will require innovative new policies and funding, to quote the health secretary, Matt Hancock, ‘business as usual’ will not suffice.

“The public understand this, which is why three quarters of the adult population in England support government interventions to limit smoking, with a growing proportion of them thinking government should do more.”

The consultation closes on 14 October.

*Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s. Department of Health & Social Care, 22 July 2019.


Editorial team, Wilmington Healthcare

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