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The NHS must stop 'trying to do everything'

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The NHS needs to clarify its role in public policy and stop ‘trying to do everything’, according to Kings Fund chief executive Niall Dickson.

Mr Dickson said he was concerned that the NHS was increasingly attempting to impact on areas such as housing and social deprivation instead of concentrating on health.

He used the example of Hull Primary Care Trust, which bought a boat in order to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference, he said: “It’s all laudable but I don’t think that’s the NHS’s job. We need to define clearly what we want. This trying to do everything is a bit of a worry.”

He said the NHS also needed to think about the most effective use of resources to improve public health.

 Discussing free swimming lessons, which have gained strong support from health secretary Andy Burnham, he said: “That sounds like a great idea.

“I don’t know what the evidence base is. Does it encourage the right people to swim or are we just encouraging people to go more often. Is that a good use of public money?”

He also called for a greater emphasis on individual responsibility instead of “almost infantalising people who are poor”.

Institutions needed to focus on encouraging people to make healthier choices for themselves, he said.

The NHS needs to clarify its role in public policy and stop “trying to do everything”, according to Kings Fund chief executive Niall Dickson.

Mr Dickson said he was concerned that the NHS was increasingly attempting to impact on areas such as housing and social deprivation instead of concentrating on health.

He used the example of Hull Primary Care Trust, which bought/was planning to buy? A boat in order to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference, he said: “It’s all laudable but I don’t think that’s the NHS’s job. We need to define clearly what we want. This trying to do everything is a bit of a worry.”

He said the NHS also needed to think about the most effective use of resources to improve public health.

Discussing free swimming lessons, which have gained strong support from health secretary Andy Burnham, he said: “That sounds like a great idea.

“I don’t know what the evidence base is. Does it encourage the right people to swim or are we just encouraging people to go more often. Is that a good use of public money?”

He also called for a greater emphasis on individual responsibility instead of “almost infantalising people who are poor”.

Institutions needed to focus on encouraging people to make healthier choices for themselves, he said.

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  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Mr Dickson has made a very good point on the need to clarify what public money in general is used for. The problem is that the NHS in general still has the greatest success with those who can communicate well from a language/educational point of with those working in the system. This group also is likely to have a reasonable standard of living and in general health is something they value as a means to be able to enjoy life and as such will have motivation to make healthier choices. However I feel when people have very little control of everday life are dependent on benifits for housing and everyday life. They learn to cope in other ways such as smoking or drinking and the social system that facilitates them to life also has programmed them to be dependent and this then moves on in health care, it is the system (NHS) that sorts my health out. If we really value people from poorer social economic backgroud then I feel we need to make clear that to improve the health of these people a joint pot of money is required as all aspects of everyday life need to be addressed together.

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