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Saving a lost decade - How a new deal for public health can help build a healthier nation Summary


UK is one of the unhealthiest countries in Europe with increasing health inequality, high prevalence of obesity as well as a stalled life expectancy following the high mortality rate from COVID-19. Reports show there have been over 65,000 deaths in the UK during the pandemic. 

Policy Exchange is the UK’s leading think tank as well as an independent charity which develops and promotes new policy ideas to have a stronger society and a more dynamic economy. Their analysis has shown that the target of increasing healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035 is off track and the Government is in danger of a lost decade of health. The pandemic has shown that health equals wealth and a healthier country will be more productive and economically successful. Improving the health of the nation should become a priority missing underpinned by a ‘new deal’ for public health.

Click here to read the report on how a new deal for public health can help build a healthier nation 

The new deal should include 6 recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Ambition – The Government should make improving the health of the nation a new national mission and publish a public health strategy/White Paper setting out how to deliver five healthier life years by 2035 including targets and milestones to deliver on this long term goal

Recommendation 2: National structures – The majority of PHE’s health improvement functions should move into the DHSC with closer Ministerial accountability. A new National Institute for Health Improvement should be established linking health improvement to wider ambitions for Government ‘levelling up’. Screening and disease registries should move to relevant NHS organisations

Recommendation 3: Funding – The Government should maintain the Public Health Grant as the primary mechanism for funding public health through local authorities, but review the amount of money against services and population health need. HM Treasury should regularly review the public health impacts of fiscal events and consider a future uplift formula for public health funding linked to inflation, GDP or the NHS

Recommendation 4: Local government – Local authorities should continue as lead public health commissioners, taking steps to find the right structures to work collaboratively with changing NHS systems. Regional public health leaders should be maintained within NHS regional offices

Recommendation 5: NHS – NHS ICSs in their assurance plans should set out how they are ensuring the voice of place in their regional plans and set ambitious targets on health improvement and prevention in priority policy areas

Recommendation 6: System working and performance – The new National Institute for Health Improvement should have stronger working relationships with local authority public health leaders to ensure an acceleration of improvement in public health as a result of increased funding. New population health data captured through NHS and public health outcomes frameworks, underpinned by the new NHS data strategy and a future health index should be used to improve performance and outcomes



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