Matt Hancock launches ‘prevention is better than cure’ initiative

Matt Hancock publishes new vision for the UK

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has published his vision for how he aims to change the government’s approach to prevention, paving the way for a green paper in 2019.

The now published document, ‘Prevention is better than cure,’ builds on previous work in areas such as childhood obesity, but these works shifts the focus to primary and community care services, and the value they can bring in offering early support.

Mr Hancock has said prevention will be at the centre of the NHS long-term plan and will incorporate new approaches such as predictive prevention – which will explore how digital technology can be used to offer individuals precise and targeted health advice.

During a keynote speech, Mr Hancock outlined his plans:

  • In 2019, launching a consultation on measures to encourage employers to support more disabled people into work, and to improve access to occupational health
  • Increasing specialise mental health services to a further 30,000 women during pregnancy and during the first year after they have given birth by 2020/21
  • 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
  • Sequencing 5m genomes in 5 years and offering whole-genome sequencing to all seriously ill children and those with cancer by 2019, as well as adults with rare diseases or cancers

Mr Hancock said: “Two of the biggest health successes of the 20th century had prevention at their core: vaccination and cutting smoking. In the UK, both were achieved by careful and considered government intervention.

“In the UK, we are spending £97 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion preventing it across the UK. You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.

“A focus on prevention and predictive medicine isn’t just the difference between life and death, it’s the difference between spending the last 20 years of your life fit and active, or in constant pain from a chronic condition. So, our focus must shift from treating single acute illnesses to promoting the health of the whole individual. That requires more resources for prevention.”

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