In Depth

Jeremy Hunt blames 'shocking' NHS failings for early deaths

Health Secretary says 30,000 die each year because British health care fails to match best in Europe

jeremy-hunt-car.jpg

THE "shocking underperformance" of health services causes tens of thousands of people to die needlessly each year, the Health Secretary was due to tell the Commons today.

Jeremy Hunt will "issue a warning" that England’s failure to match the best health care in other European countries means that 30,000 people a year die too early, The Times reports.

His speech comes as a study published in The Lancet shows that Britons enjoy fewer years of good health before they die than people in other wealthy nations, reports The Guardian.

The study, which analysed data collected by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, ranked the UK 14th out of 19 countries of similar affluence in 2010 in terms of premature deaths. Britain has slipped from 10th position in 1990, despite "big increases in funding" for the NHS in recent years, and many reform initiatives, the study says.

Higher incidences of Alzheimer's disease, cirrhosis of the liver and drug use disorders have been blamed for the UK's worsening position.

Hunt will tell the Commons today that all middle-aged people should be offered regular health checks to spot emerging problems and he is expected to call on the NHS to focus on "the five biggest killer diseases". He will say: "Despite real progress in cutting deaths we remain a poor relative to our global cousins on many measures of health, something I want to change. For too long we have been lagging behind and I want the reformed health system to take up this challenge and turn this shocking underperformance around."

The Health Secretary believes that too many deaths occur because the NHS is "not good enough" at preventing sickness and its treatment of patients often fails to match "the best on offer". Hunt will also urge the public to do more to look after their own health and that of others, the Times says.

One of the study’s authors, Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer of Public Health England, agreed that hospital care was only part of the equation. He told the Guardian that "the way we live – our diet, our drinking and continuing smoking habits" all play a part in the nation’s poor health ranking.

  • Cartoon courtesy Marf and Politicalbetting.com

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