Jeremy Hunt says NHS reforms are 'brave and right'

Jeremy Hunt today used his first speech as health secretary to argue that Andrew Lansley's health reforms are 'brave and right' and will make the NHS stronger.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt: reforms will make NHS stronger
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt: reforms will make NHS stronger

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham today, Mr Hunt said his priorities were giving patients the best survival rates in Europe for major diseases and to transform the way the health and social care system looks after older people.

Mr Hunt, who was appointed as health secretary in last month's reshuffle, said he had asked the Care Quality Commission to look into how NHS managers can be held accountable for care failures.

He said: ‘My priorities will be to give patients in Britain the best survival rates in Europe for major diseases and to transform the way the health and social care system looks after older people. Not just our approach to conditions like dementia, but the way we care for people.

‘I also want to see a big change in the way we look after people with dementia, something that will sadly affect one in three of us over 65.’

But he warned that the country will need to ‘face up to some hard truths about how we are going to pay for social care’.

Mr Hunt said that 20,000 lives could be saved a year in Britain if mortality rates for the five major killer diseases were ‘as good as the best in Europe’. He said: ‘Sadly our cancer survival rates are lower than the European average, deaths from liver disease are going up and we lose more people to respiratory diseases than anywhere else in the EU15.

'We have made a start by introducing the cancer drugs fund and speeding up NICE approval for new drugs. Today I am also announcing that from April next year, we will guarantee access to all innovative radiotherapy wherever clinically appropriate and cost-effective. But there is much more to do, in particular working with partners in local government who will be responsible for public health under the reforms.’

He hinted that the government would invest more in NHS IT, arguing that the technology revolution had ‘barely touched the NHS’.

He said: ‘Why can people access their bank records online but not their medical ones? Why can you order your groceries at home but not your prescription? Why can you book a hotel but not a GP appointment? In Denmark people can already access their hospital records online. In Sweden and US ordering prescriptions online is becoming routine - so why can't we?

‘The big Labour disaster with the NHS IT contracts must not stop us trying to crack this. Which means no to top-down, bureaucratic procurement - but yes to more information, faster response and the better service from technology.’

He ended his speech by praising the ‘extraordinary dedication of GPs, doctors, nurses and other professionals’.

He said: 'We promise to match their dedication with our commitment - to work night and day to build a health service true to its core values but ambitious for the future, and giving every family in the country the confidence and security that comes from receiving the best healthcare in the world.'

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