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‘NHS must treat unhealthy lifestyles, not killer diseases’

The NHS must focus on treating unhealthy lifestyles rather than killer diseases because they place the greatest burden on doctors, according to health leaders in London.

Four in every five deaths in London today are due to unhealthy lifestyles.
Dr Anne Rainsberry, regional director of NHS England, said health services must be reformed “radically” to avoid increasing the current strain on resources and creating a £4 billion hole in NHS finances by 2020.

Failing to change the way services for patients are organised, for example moving investment from hospitals to community care, will result in longer waiting times for treatment and limited or unsafe services at weekends, she said.

The NHS was initially set up to tackle deadly diseases but improvements in medicine and our standard of living, along with an ageing population, mean that the demands on doctors have changed dramatically.

Four in every five deaths in London today are due to unhealthy lifestyles, including factors such as smoking, alcohol, bad diets and a lack of exercise.

“We need to look more at how we can help people to stay well, rather than focusing on treating them once they are ill,” Dr Rainsberry said.

“Investing more in hospitals is not the answer; we need to focus more on prevention and improve our primary and community care services to coordinate services closer to where patients live.”

Dr Andy Mitchell, Medical Director for NHS England in London, added: “The NHS has spent the last 65 years treating disease and ill health. Now we are treating more and more conditions that stem from what we are doing to ourselves.

“London’s hospitals are at breaking point and the demand for health care will outstrip the funding available in just seven years unless we fundamentally change the way services are delivered.”

Their comments came as NHS England in London launched a new report which warns that the capital’s health system is “unsustainable” and in urgent need of reform.

Maintaining all hospitals in London in their current form would lead to a funding gap of £4 billion by 2020, and the range of services provided at each must be narrowed in order to ensure safe staffing levels, it said.

Downgrading or closing some hospitals while centralising specialist services across a smaller number of locations in the capital could help ensure that minimum quality standards are met, the report claimed.

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