The number of people aged 85 in this country will double in the next twenty years. The fact that more of us are living for longer is something we should celebrate. But it does mean that despite protecting the NHS budget, costs will continue to rise at an unsustainable rate.
The NHS will always be there for everyone, free-of-charge. That will never change. But we must make sure our health service is the best it can possibly be. That’s why we want an NHS that doesn’t just patch people up, but helps keep them healthy and out of hospital in the first place.
That’s why family doctors, nurses and clinicians will arrange the services you need, rather than managers remote from patients. We want those decisions to be based on what is needed in your local area, so we’ve given a new role to local councils to help shape the health priorities in your community. And because if your living with a long term condition, like diabetes, you don’t want to spend your life in and out of hospital, we will make it easier for the NHS and councils to work together to join up the care and support that works best for you. Crucially, we’ve also put in place important safeguards, so GPs can’t nudge patients towards the cheapest option. So we will make sure waiting times are kept low, but that standards rise.
If you have an accident, you want to know that there will be always be a hospital there to look after you. Nothing in this Bill changes that. But when it’s not an emergency, we believe you should have more than a ‘like or lump it’ health service. So where a nurse feels that they can provide better care for child in a wheelchair by working with an expert charity in that field, they will be able to do so. Where a family doctor feels minor surgery can be provided in their practice rather than having to send a patient to hospital, they will be able to do so. And where a hospital feels that it is better to deliver diagnostic tests closer to a patient’s home, they will be able to do so.
Patients are already starting to see the benefits. People treated in Eastbourne at a nurse led clinic have often had wounds that haven’t healed over three years. Now, more than eight out of ten of them have their wounds healed in just 6 weeks. In Bath, a group of doctors have developed a simple blood test for GPs to improve care for heart failure patients, which will save the NHS locally thousands of pounds a year. And in Bedfordshire, they have put in place arrangements to treat vulnerable older people in their home, rather than in hospital.
These changes aren't revolutionary. They simply build on the best parts of the NHS that are already there. But they will make sure you get more personal and targeted care. By allowing doctors to work closer together with local councils, you’ll get the best health services for you and your area.