NHS response to Brown's reforms

An NHS which seeks to prevent illness as well as curing it was given a cautious welcome in this region yesterday, reports sARAH BREALEY

In Gordon Brown's first major speech on the NHS since he became prime minister, he promised a more personalised and preventative service putting “patient power” first.

Doctors in Norfolk yesterday welcomed plans for tests for abdominal aortic aneurysms in older men, which could save up to 1,600 lives a year, as well as for heart and circulation problems and strokes, diabetes and kidney disease.

GPs are likely to take on a bigger role, with blood tests, electro-cardiograms and ultrasound scans available in surgeries in order to cut waiting times.

In a speech at Kings College in London, Mr Brown said: “The NHS of the future will do more than just treat patients who are ill - it will be an NHS offering prevention as well… Over time, everyone in England will have access to the right preventative health check-up.”

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Screening for vulnerability to heart and circulation problems will come in this year or early next year and will lead to treatment and advice for those identified as at risk. Mr Brown also promised check-ups for strokes, diabetes and kidney disease alongside strengthened powers to improve or replace weak GPs, community healthcare services and hospital management teams. But opposition politicians complained that there was no sign where the money was coming from or a clear timetable.

Simon Lockett, secretary of Norfolk's Local Medical Committee, said: “GPs have been champing at the bit to do more screening for quite some time. It is nice to hear something that implies they trust us to do things in our surgeries when at times it feels as if we have been under attack by the government.

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“I cannot see GPs getting much extra money because the government takes the view that we have done better than expected under our contracts. It is not clear whether there will be any extra money to fund the screening, or money taken from somewhere else, or whether PCTs will be told to find the money.”

Dr Pam Hall, from the NHS East of England, said: “We welcome the prime minister's announcements, and in particular his emphasis on providing people with support to manage their own health. Several of our local hospitals are already planning for introduction of the new screening programme for abdominal aortic aneurysm, which will save lives in men aged over 65. We look forward to working with our local services to implement changes to improve the health of our population.”

The announcement was welcomed by the Stroke Association, the British Liver Trust, Diabetes UK and the World Cancer Research Fund, but the British Lung Foundation complained he had “failed to address” respiratory disease.

Ian Banks, president of the Men's Health Forum, said: “This should be good news for men's health but, as the Men's Health Forum has consistently called for, the government needs to announce the timetable for introducing abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and the details of resources to make it work.”

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