The King's Fund statement on the Prime Minister's health speech

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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

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  2. The King’s Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.