Hunt admits 'huge' challenge for NHS as peers doubt impact of reforms

NHS reforms underway in England are unlikely to keep more people out of hospital or to tackle the challenges of an ageing society, a House of Lords committee has warned.

Jeremy Hunt: 'huge amount' to do to tackle ageing population
Jeremy Hunt: 'huge amount' to do to tackle ageing population

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the Lords committee on public service and demographic change yesterday that the coalition had made good progress on addressing an ageing society with more long-term conditions but admitted that there is ‘huge amount’ more to be done.

Committee chairman Lord Filkin, a Labour peer, said the NHS was not prepared for the scale of the demographic changes ahead. ‘We are doubtful that the scale of the efficiency savings - that these by itself - are going to address the scale of the change needed,’ he said.

Conservative peer Lord Mawhinney, said that the committee was doubtful that the NHS reforms in England would enable more people to be treated outside of hospital. ‘Overwhelmingly the evidence is that when all the dust settles on these new proposals, the fundamental issue of shifting people out of hospitals to the community won't change much,’ he said.

‘I wouldn’t want to second guess what this committee will say but we are pretty sceptical.’

Mr Hunt told the committee: 'We have spent a huge amount of time on dementia and long-term conditions and that is not something that is going to pay any political dividend in the short-term. We have made progress but there is a huge amount to do.'

‘We are looking forward to 2020 when there will be 1m people with dementia in this country. We are recognising that there needs to be a radical of transformation of the way the health and social care system works.’

The health secretary disagreed with Lord Filkin's view that the government was taking a short-term and departmental approach to addressing an ageing society. He said: ‘Governments need to be judged on their actions. The fact we haven’t had a brain-storming session as a cabinet about what we need to do about an ageing society I don’t think is the key point here.

'The two biggest issues we face as an ageing society are sustainability of the NHS and the sustainability of the pension system. And I think we have made some very real progress in trying to tackle those issues. We are not there yet.’

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