Commenting on the appointment of Andrew Lansley as the new Secretary of State for Health and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition agreement, The King's Fund's Chief Executive, Professor Chris Ham, said:
'Andrew Lansley has a deep understanding of our health system. His grasp of the key issues facing the NHS will enable him to hit the ground running, which is essential given it is facing the most significant financial challenge in its history. The new Secretary of State must set the NHS on a new course to transform itself from a service that diagnoses and treats sickness to one that predicts and prevents it.
'The confirmation that the health budget will increase in real terms over the course of the parliament is good news for the NHS, although this is unlikely to be enough to keep pace with demand for services and cost pressures. Closing the £21 billion productivity gap we estimate the NHS is facing must be its top priority if it is to maintain quality and avoid cutting services.
'We hope the focus on improving public health promised in the manifestos will be at the heart of the new government's agenda. Whether or not the coalition government is able to tackle the economic and social determinants of poor health and reduce health inequalities will be a test of whether it can work effectively across departmental boundaries – something that eluded its predecessors.
'The momentum established on social care reform must not be lost. This should be an urgent priority for the first session of the new parliament, with clear proposals for reform set out within a year. Politicians from all the parties talked before the election about the need for consensus on the way forward – whether or not this is achieved will be a key test of whether coalition government delivers a more constructive approach to politics.'
Notes to editors:
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- The King’s Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.