Health Policy

05.11.18

People must take more responsibility for their own health to take strain off NHS, says Hancock

The health secretary has urged people to take more responsibility for managing their own health and improve their lifestyle choices in a speech launching plans to prevent ill health.

Matt Hancock, speaking to the International Association of National Public Health Institutes, spoke about a major push for prevention, and said that people should “take more care of their own health.”

He called for more focus on prevention to transform the health and social care system, save money, eliminate waste and make the extra £20.5bn go as far as possible, using prevention to make the NHS more sustainable in the long-term.

Hancock announced a green paper, entitled ‘Prevention is better than cure,’ which argues for a shift towards primary and community care services.

Hancock told the health conference that encouraging people to take “greater responsibility” for taking the strain off the NHS by cutting down how much they eat and drink.

“At the core of my political philosophy is a belief that the state has a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society, and an equally firm belief that we must empower people to fulfil their potential to be the best they possibly can be, from the education they receive in school, to the freedom they have to achieve in work.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson called the move “great leadership” and a “seminal moment” if backed by actions.

He said: “Preventing illness and disease is huge area with enormous potential – much of it extending well beyond the NHS.”

Hancock said: “Prevention saves lives and saves money. Ultimately, at the heart of our public provision for healthcare there’s a social contract. A social contract at the heart of our NHS.”

He said that citizens have a right to healthcare free at the point of use, but that we also have a responsibility to pay taxes to fund it, to use the health service carefully and to comply with medical advice to look after ourselves.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, also welcomed the green paper, but said that it must be backed by real action to make “prevention a central pillar of the long-term plan for the NHS.”

He said: “Making prevention a key priority, supported by appropriate investment and leadership focus, is key to creating a long-term sustainable health and care system.”

Turning Point's Victor Adebowale said “the idea that people should take responsibility for their own health’ is part of what preventative services are about.

“But without explicit reference to the relationship between poverty and poor health, there’s a risk that this will become a political slogan that undermines people living in poverty.”

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Image credit - NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

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