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Stevens: ‘NHS must get serious about new public health threats’

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“Getting serious” about prevention and tackling new threats to public health will create the headroom to bring new innovations into the NHS, NHS England’s chief executive has said.



Health Service Journal reports that Simon Stevens has warned there is a new group of threats to public health, different from those of previous generations.

These included the rise of self harm and eating disorders in young people, as well as gambling addiction, with 430,000 people estimated to have a gambling problem in the UK.

Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, Mr Stevens said addressing these problems will create the “headroom” the NHS needs to free up cash for new innovations.

He added: “We know too that the headroom we have available for many of the brilliant innovations is a function partly of the efficiency with which care can be delivered, so we have got significant changes we require across parts of the health service in how to take [out] some of the waste that exists.

“We need to create headroom by getting more serious about aspects of prevention and public health, including what you might call the ‘new public health’, looking at some of the new threats to health and wellbeing that are different [from] those previous generations have tackled.”

Mr Stevens accused big betting firms, some of which he claimed sponsored the Premier League, of not responding to the voluntary target to fund support services for gambling addicts.

He added: “We are seeing new threats arising, for example the mental health services which are having to be established in London, the first NHS clinic to deal with gambling addiction. And yet we know that we have significant numbers of people, perhaps 430,000 with a gambling problem in this country.

“At the same time, the voluntary target of funding from the gambling industry to support those services has not been responded to by the eight foreign betting firms that sponsor the Premier League.

“We need to get on to them and make them play their part.”

It is not clear whether plans to tackle these issues will be in the NHS long term plan, which is due to be published in November.

But Mr Stevens did say it will build on the changes and tackle areas such as young people’s mental health, autism, and health inequalities.

He added: “But we have also got to tackle some new areas that frankly have not had the attention they deserve.

“Young people’s mental health services, the big gaps in care that exist sometimes between the education service and the health service and social care for conditions, such as autism.

“We have got to look much more intentionally about how in an NHS that is funded fairly across the country we use the extra resources for health inequalities more explicitly and programmatically to tackle the enduring differences in life expectancy and health and wellbeing between different parts of the country and different groups of people.”

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