Francis Maude: measures to improve the nation’s health

Over the years, I’ve written a great deal about attempts to secure a new hospital for local NHS patients – it’s been big news. But I felt it was time I drew readers’ attention to what’s going on nationally.

There’s some general good news – since the Coalition Government came to power the number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment has fallen from 18,000 to 842; MRSA rates are down by half; there are 400,000 more operations each year and, amazingly, there are 7,000 fewer managers and 7,000 more frontline clinical staff, including nearly 6,000 more doctors.

More specifically, my colleague, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has identified four areas of focus for our health policies - compassionate care, dementia, reducing deaths from the major killer diseases and getting the NHS to embrace new technology. Successes in these areas will make a huge difference to many people’s daily lives and could prevent others from becoming ill in the first place. Over the years I’ve heard many appalling cases of a lack of basic care at East Surrey Hospital, with hardworking staff being too overwhelmed by demand to give the care and compassion they want to. We’ve all heard about the Mid Staffs scandal and so the role of Chief Inspector of Hospitals is being created. The new regime will include Ofsted-style ratings. We’ve announced £60m of funding for 176 hospices to improve end of life care.

There can’t be many families who have not been affected by dementia. The Prime Minister has also made tackling this devastating condition a personal priority. We’ve published a new nursing strategy to raise the profile of nursing’s contribution to dementia care and to detail exactly what is expected of all nurses in caring for people with dementia. It’s shocking to think that in May 2010 only 39 per cent of people suffering from dementia actually received a diagnosis. We’re currently up to 45 per cent but this will be improved upon.

One of the most important technological changes will be the move to digital medical records. This will massively reduce bureaucracy and the Health Secretary has said that he wants the NHS to be paperless by 2018.

Finally, charities such as Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association have welcomed our commitment to avoiding 30,000 premature deaths each year.

The Department of Health has useful web pages that contain a lot more detail, including a useful guide to the structure of the NHS since our reforms were implemented. They can be found at www.gov.uk.