Care outside of hospital needs a ‘root and branch’ transformation to make the NHS sustainable, Mr Hunt told delegates on the first day of the Conservative party conference in Manchester.
He told delegates: ‘That will involve, in particular, a move towards a much more pro-active primary care, having a system where we are confident there is an accountable clinician there for all our most vulnerable older people, keeping tabs on them, making sure that they’re okay, even if they don’t volunteer and come forward. That is going to be a very big change.’
The health secretary revealed in a speech earlier this month that after taking greater control of the care of frail elderly patients from April 2014, GPs would be asked to offer more targeted care for those with long-term conditions from 2015.
‘The frail elderly, I want those changes to start happening from next April,’ said Mr Hunt. ‘Then I think the next year, we have to move on from the frail elderly to the next group of people that we should be thinking about and that is everyone who has a long-term condition.
‘People who get a diagnosis, from the minute they get a diagnosis, get the support they need to keep them healthy and help them live at home for as long as is possible. And that I think is the next big change. I think if we start doing that, we can start to see that real transformation of out of hospital care that can and should - and I think will - make the NHS the envy of the world.’
He said better data sharing between health and social care, with care homes entering data into patient records, could help GPs manage elderly patients more effectively.
He added: ‘It is a very ambitious plan. There is lots to do. We must never forget the huge pressure the health service is already under.
‘I have worked in the private sector, the charitable sector, Japan – I have never in my life seen people work as hard as they work in the health and care system. I think we owe it to them to not duck these really important changes and really do make it the best country in the world to grow old in.’