Hancock reveals NHS prevention plan to boost life expectancy

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will announce the new NHS prevention plan, which aims to boost life expectancy by five years. 

Hancock’s new long-term NHS vision will focus on preventing illness by telling people in the UK to cut back on alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.

“For too long the NHS has seen itself as essentially the National Hospital Service, with primary care and GPs round the side,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I want to see it as the health service of the nation, helping people to stay healthier.”

Currently, the UK life expectancy is 82.9 years for women, and 79.2 for men. Hancock hopes this will increase by five years by 2035.

The UK currently spends ten times more on treating disease than on preventing them, which Hancock has said: “doesn’t stack up”.

“In the UK, we are spending £97 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion preventing it across the UK,” he said. “You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.”

In a speech at the International Association of National Public Health Institutes, he said: “Prevention is also about ensuring people take greater responsibility for managing their own health.”

“It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking. Making better choices by limiting alcohol, sugar, salt and fat.”

“But focusing on the responsibilities of patients isn’t about penalising people. It’s about helping them make better choices, giving them the all the support we can, because we know taking the tough decisions is never easy.”

Hancock’s long-term health plans also include to half childhood obesity by 2030 and diagnose 75% of cancers at stages one and two by 2028.

Helen Donovan, from the Royal College of Nursing, welcomed the plans but said investment at a local level was necessary.

“Matt Hancock must realise his plans will start at a disadvantage as local authorities struggle with planned cuts to public health budgets of almost 4% per year until 2021.”

“While it’s clear he sees that prevention isn’t an optional extra, we need to see properly funded, accountable services delivered by a fully staffed nursing workforce backed by adequate resources.”