Commenting in response to the Prime Minister's speech today on health, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:
'The Prime Minister is right – if we want a health service that is sustainable it will need to do more to keep people as healthy as possible as well as treating them when they are sick. It is not a question of one or the other – a modern service has to do both.
'Obesity and other lifestyle problems represent a major challenge over the next 20 years – offering patients screening for early signs of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and other conditions as part of a focus on prevention is exactly what a health service fit for the 21st century must be doing.
'The important point is that screening has to be cost-effective – it is vital that screening is targeted at those groups at highest risk. A key challenge with all screening programmes is to ensure that they reach vulnerable groups who are most likely to benefit from them, but who are least likely to come forward to access services.
'And we must remember that screening is just the start of the process – patients may need treatment and be supported to live healthier lifestyles. Above all, these approaches to screening must be rigorously tested and evaluated to ensure decisions are based on sound evidence.
'We also welcome moves to carry out more diagnostic tests in the community rather than in hospitals. A major hurdle facing the health service in meeting its ambitious 18-week waiting-time target for patients are the bottlenecks caused by delays in diagnostic testing. This would not have been possible 20 years ago so it is right that with advanced medical technologies and changing patterns of illness that the NHS adapts the way it delivers services. This offers the promise of faster access to treatment and more convenience for patients.'
Notes to editors:
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