UK rethinks national health service

The UK has launched a review of the National Health Service (NHS) to examine the impact of technology and lifestyle choices on the nation’s well-being and to make the system more fair, personal and effective. Launching the review, UK Premier Gordon Brown also announced the creation of a new health innovation fund.

“Our vision…is an NHS that not only provides a personal service that is organised around the needs of the patients but one that is pioneering new cures for the future. Renewing the NHS is my most immediate priority in the job that I hold,” said UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown as he launched a report setting out the Government’s vision for the country’s future health service.

The interim report, NHS next stage review, published on 4 October 2007, sets out a 10-year vision for the British health service. The report looks at how the NHS can become fairer, more personalised, effective and safe and sets out actions that should be taken to make progress towards that vision. “This interim report is the start of developing this vision for the next ten years,” said Lord Darzi, author of the report.

Led by the new health minister, Lord Ara Darzi, the review will examine the impact of technology and lifestyle choices on the nation’s well-being, and will look to make the NHS more responsive and better able to serve the needs of the public. The final part of the review setting out how the vision can be delivered will be published in spring 2008.

Presenting the vision, Brown also announced the creation of a new health innovation fund which will be jointly financed by the UK department of health and the Welcome Trust. “It will be worth up to £100 million over the next five years and the fund is designed to help the NHS to develop and deploy new medical technology,” said Brown.

Already last month, a nation wide consultation, the largest ever conducted on the future of the health service, was launched to allow citizens have their say. “With rising citizen expectations, the advance of new technologies and a much sharper understanding of the impact of lifestyle choices, the challenges that today’s National Health Service faces are very different from those of 20 years ago,” said Gordon Brown then, adding that “it is only by persuading people to change their own lifestyles that we can really improve the health of the nation.”

Financing efficient and inclusive healthcare is a major challenge in the EU, in particular in view of the population’s ageing. To ease the pressure put on the European social security systems, EU member states have agreed to coordinate their efforts to allow, for example, further development of eHealth applications. The Council has also invited the Commission and the member states to promote healthy lifestyles to the citizens by targeted health actions and communication.

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