RCPCH responds to the Government's 'prevention better than cure' announcement

"We commend Government for their commitment" says Professor Russell Viner, but emphasises this will be difficult to achieve without a "significant expansion to the child health workforce".

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock today outlines his vision for the future health and care system, with a commitment to publish the first ever Green Paper on prevention next year.
The 'prevention is better than cure' vision will build on previous work by the government, and will shift the focus to primary and community care services and the value they can bring in offering early support. Matt Hancock says he will put prevention at the heart of the NHS long term plan, and novel new approaches to bring healthcare into the modern era.

Responding to the Health Secretary’s announcement, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

Promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing people from becoming ill is key to reducing the burden on the NHS and ensuring that everyone can live long and healthy lives. That’s why it’s great to see the Health and Social Care Secretary take prevention seriously with this new vision.

Increasing vaccination uptake, tackling childhood obesity, promoting mental wellbeing and prioritising investment in primary and community healthcare are all vital components of a wide-ranging prevention strategy, and we commend Government for its commitments. Tackling health inequalities too is essential to ensure that every child has the healthiest possible start in life. We know that children born in the most deprived areas of the country are more likely to have negative health outcomes than their more affluent peers, so Government’s vision to narrow the gap between the experiences of the richest and poorest people in society is welcome.

Prevention needs to start at the beginning of life. Only by putting children and young people at the heart of this endeavour will we move from a national illness service to a truly national health service.

However, a health system that truly embeds a preventative approach will be difficult to achieve without a significant expansion in the child health workforce – paediatricians, along with GPs, midwives, nurses, health visitors and all other health professionals involved in the care of children. We hope to see further clarity about how this exciting vision can be implemented in practice when the Green Paper on prevention is published next year, and look forward to working closely with Government on its development.

The vision, which is to be unveiled by the Health Secretary during a keynote speech at the Annual Meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes later today, outlines some of the Government’s ambitions and plans to transform public health, including:

  • publishing a Green Paper on prevention next year
  • increasing specialist 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
  • diagnosing 75% of cancers at stages 1 and 2 by 2028
  • sequencing 5 million genomes in 5 years, and offering whole genome sequencing to all serious ill children and those with cancer by 2019, as well as adults with rare diseases or cancers.