As the NHS turns 75, Health Minister Eluned Morgan has set out how the NHS will need to be reformed and how the public will need to help shape those reforms if the NHS is to celebrate a centenary.
Speaking at the Bevan Commission NHS 75 Conference, Ms Morgan was clear that change was needed to ensure NHS Wales can continue to deliver care for future generations.
The NHS has continued to evolve, adopting new treatments and technologies as healthcare has advanced, helping people to live longer and healthier lives.
Demand for NHS care has increased steadily as people live longer, often with more complex health problems.
Current projections suggest the number of people diagnosed with cancer in Wales will rise from almost 20,000 a year between 2017 and 2019 to almost 25,000 by 2040. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is also expected to reach 17% of the population by 2035.
In her speech today, the Health Minister will highlight how the NHS has changed since its creation in 1948 and how further evolution is needed to meet future demand.
The way NHS services are delivered is already changing – from the roll out of NHS 111; the development of urgent primary care centers; community pharmacists prescribing services to changing the law so opticians can treat a wider range of eye problems. Resources are also being moved into primary care and the community to provide more wrap-around care to prevent people from being admitted to hospital.
Work to address health inequalities and ensure everyone has the same opportunities to stay healthy is also underway. The transformational Health Strategy, A Healthier Wales sets out a specific focus on tackling inequalities and Wales will become one of the first countries to consult on plans for all public bodies to carry out health impact assessment before introducing new measures.
During her speech, the Health Minister will ask the public to help the NHS meet the challenges of the future by looking after their own health and wellbeing.
Minister for Health Eluned Morgan said:
“The way the NHS works has changed over the last 75 years, and NHS Wales will have to change further if we want to preserve it for the next generation.
“The system is under strain like never before and demand for services is greater than ever. We are going to have to ask difficult questions about how we bring about this change and adapt to continuing pressures.
“The health care needs of Wales have changed. We want the public and healthcare workers to work together to create a system where everyone understands their responsibilities.
“Central to this is addressing workforce issues, shifting our focus to moving care out of hospitals and into the community, and focusing on what is in the best interest for the patient.
“But we will also have to take far more seriously our responsibility to try and stay fit and healthy and manage our own health and wellbeing where possible. We need people, the NHS and wider society to work together to make a healthier lifestyle accessible for everyone, If we don’t – we know that really difficult decisions will need to be made in terms of what services will be available in future.”
The Minister also announced that she is establishing an independent group to review whether the governance and accountability mechanisms of today’s NHS are fit for the future.