Brexit offers the best opportunity to radically rethink the NHS since it was set up 68 years ago, according to a think-tank.
A new contract between the NHS and society was needed to help it cope with a growing and ageing population, a rise in obesity and environmental and economic changes. To meet these new challenges doctors, scientists, social entrepreneurs, and crossbench peers have launched a new manifesto.
It said there needed to be bold thinking to create a healthy society shifting more to prevention rather than fire fighting rising diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles. But to create this new healthy society there needed to be a national movement like the one that established the universal health care system in 1948.
The authors said: “Brexit and the troubled state of the NHS called for a rethinking the UK’s approach to health.
“The EU referendum vote reveals deep social divisions as well as presenting the country with important decisions and negotiations about the future.
“At the same time, health problems are growing; the NHS faces severe financial constraints and appears to lurch from crisis to crisis, with leaving the European Union likely to exacerbate many problems including staffing issues across the whole sector.”
But writing in the respected The Lancet they added it was “a positive vision for how the UK can benefit from the brilliance of its clinicians, scientists, and entrepreneurs in the fields of health and biomedical and life sciences.”
The manifesto sets out four aims to improve the nation’s health and make the NHS fit for the future.
- To position health, biomedical and life sciences at the heart of the UK’s future industrial strategy.
- Move away from a hospital-centred and illness-based system to providing many more services in homes and communities using the latest technologies.
- Focus of prevention, involving all sectors from employment and housing to welfare support, food, and education.
- Health, care, and science communities should have a crucial part to play in developing and restoring a healthy society in the UK.
Lord Nigel Crisp, crossbench peer and former NHS Chief Executive said: “The NHS faces severe financial constraints, and leaving the EU is likely to exacerbate many problems including staffing.
“With a new government comes the opportunity for a clear, bold new strategy.
“We need a new approach to health that recognises on the one hand the enormous contribution health and biomedical sciences make to the economy, and on the other that every part of society has a role to play in improving health.
“The responsibility for creating a healthy society is much broader than leaving it to health professionals and politicians alone.”
Professor David Stuckler at Oxford University added: “For too long, the NHS has been firefighting.
“The system is struggling to maintain old services whilst creating new ones – and as a result is facing double running costs and failing to invest in the future.
“We need to fund modern services and take some of the strain off the NHS by creating a society where everyone has a role in promoting health.”
The Lancet’s Editor-in-chief Dr Richard Horton said: “It’s time to write a new contract between the UK’s NHS and society.
“The relationship between Government and the medical profession is broken. Morale among young doctors is at an all-time low.
“It’s therefore urgent to set out a new, positive vision for health and the health service – a modern NHS that delivers the best care for patients wherever they live, supports world-class scientific research, is supported by all sectors of society working to create a healthier nation, and takes on a global leadership role in advancing the objective of universal health coverage.”