Prevention at heart of NHS long-term plan

5 November 2018        

Category: BHF Comment

Prevention will form an “integral” part of NHS England’s Long Term Plan, Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed today.

A doctor and patient

In his announcement, Mr Hancock outlined key priorities in the vision document, called “Prevention is better than cure”.

The Health Secretary highlighted that people taking greater responsibility in managing their own health plays a key role in prevention. This can be achieved through different means, such as staying active and limiting salt and fat intake.

The vision includes ambitions such as halving childhood obesity by 2030 and taking steps to help lower air pollution levels across the country. The details of how these targets will be met are expected to be announced in a Green Paper in 2019.

Tackling childhood obesity

According to the paper, the UK has one of the highest childhood obesity rates in Western Europe. Being overweight can be detrimental to your heart health by elevating your blood cholesterol levels, raising your blood pressure and increasing your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

To help tackle this, the Government is developing a cross-government School Sport and Activity Action Plan, set to be launched in spring 2019. This will use sport and physical activity to support the development of ‘character, resilience and broader life skills in children’, as well as improving mental and physical wellbeing.

Cutting air pollution levels

In addition, the paper said that the NHS will support mayors and local authorities that propose ultra-low emissions zone charging. This will cut nitrogen dioxide and small particulate air pollution which affects school playgrounds, GP surgeries and NHS premises.

We know that air pollution can cause damage to the cardiovascular system in a number of ways, including by making the chances of blood clots more likely and creating a build-up of fatty materials inside the arteries, subsequently reducing the space through which blood can flow. 

Preventing disease over treating it

“In the UK, we are spending £87 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion preventing it across the UK,” Matt Hancock said. “You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.”

To achieve its aim, the NHS will receive a funding boost of £20.5 billion per year by 2023.

What this means for people with heart and circulatory disease

Responding to the announcement Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said:

“If we're to prevent the health crisis on our horizon, we need radical action to reverse spiralling rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions which lead to preventable heart attacks and strokes. 

"Failing to act risks undoing hard fought progress in cutting heart and circulatory disease death rates - the consequences of which will be felt for a generation.

“This starts with making sure that common risk factors such as high blood pressure are detected at a much earlier stage in the community; whether that is in a pharmacy, supermarket, or even football ground. It also means using data science and our increased knowledge of genetics to better identify people who have an inherited risk of heart disease.

“It is encouraging to hear prevention will be key in the NHS’s long term plan, but it is also absolutely vital that this new strategy genuinely has the financial and other resources to be made a reality.”

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Find out more about our research into reducing the risk of heart disease and circulatory conditions.