News

Government pledges to focus on a preventative approach to care

Health and social care secretary’s plan highlights benefits of increasing access to the arts

Health and social care secretary’s plan highlights benefits of increasing access to the arts


Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock. Picture: Alamy

Prevention is at the core of a new long-term plan for the NHS, with a shift in focus to primary and community care, the health and social care secretary has announced.

On Monday, Matt Hancock said the UK spent £97 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion preventing it, figures which did not ‘stack up’.

Government vision

During his speech to the annual meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes in London, he also launched the document, Prevention is Better than Cure: Our Vision to Help You Live Well for Longer. This policy paper sets out the government's vision for preventative care.  

It highlights the need to recognise the importance of district nurses ‘and other generalists’, who are well placed to plan for treating the whole person and not just individual conditions.

To support primary care, Mr Hancock said GPs need to work more closely with professionals such as community nurses, either in the same building or collaborating virtually as a network.

Targets included in the document include: 

  • Halving childhood obesity by 2030
  • Reducing loneliness and social isolation, and making social prescribing available in every local area by 2023
  • Diagnosing 75% of cancers at stages 1 and 2 by 2028

Focus on the arts

Today Mr Hancock spoke at think tank the King’s Fund’s headquarters in London, where he expanded on plans to boost social prescribing – which involves healthcare staff referring people to a range of local, non-clinical services.

He said there would be a national academy for social prescribing to encourage fewer drugs prescriptions and greater use of the arts, as part of a shift towards 'person-centred’ remedies.

Mr Hancock added: ‘It’s scientifically proven – access to the arts improves people’s mental and physical health. It makes us happier and healthier.’

Concerns about budget cuts

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan welcomed the focus on prevention, but warned that the plans would start at a disadvantage because local authorities are struggling with planned cuts to public health budgets until 2021.

‘While it’s clear [that Mr Hancock] sees prevention isn’t an optional extra, we need to see properly funded, accountable services delivered by a fully staffed nursing workforce, which is backed by adequate resources.’

NMC interim chief executive Sue Killen said the regulator’s new education standards would give nurses a much greater understanding across all areas of public health.


Read the government’s plan

Prevention is Better than Cure: Our Vision to Help You Live Well For Longer


In other news

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.

Jobs