12 April 2010

This follows on from two previous posts: What’s Labour ever done for Cornwall? and Furthermore….

The King’s Fund, an independent charity, has just published an authoritative assessment of changes in the NHS in England during the Labour’s government: A high-performing NHS? A review of progress 1997-2010 .

It is a chiaroscuro story, a “mix of achievements and disappointments,” and chapter 9 (pages 113-115) of the review sums up well. The review candidly explains where progress has been inadequate – for example, in access to GPs out of hours, fully open reporting of patient safety incidents, reducing unequal access, and reducing inequalities between the deprived and others, inequalities which the government itself has described as “stubborn and persistent”. Harmful alcohol consumption has worsened and the incidence of obesity has worsened. There are looming funding challenges. There is still much work to do. However, the review details the significant progress over many spheres from 1997 when, after years of Conservative indifference, the NHS was a poorly funded and poorly performing system.

Our experience of the NHS in Cornwall is also mixed and in other posts on the blog I discuss some the disappointments. However, it is important to recognise the many achievements in the NHS and here I highlight some of the achievements set out by the King’s Fund review.

Improved hospital waiting times
Since 1997 waiting times for most hospital treatments have seen “major and sustained reductions”

Improved mortality
Since 1997 mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease has dropped “substantially” and the number of strokes has fallen

MRSA and Clostridium difficile
The campaign to reduce the rates of these infections has been “successful”

Mental health
Access to early intervention mental health services and to acute crisis teams has improved and is now “one of the best” in Europe

There have been “substantial savings” in the cost of medicines

Improved regulation
Independent regulators have been established to inspect and assure the quality of healthcare

Primary care
There have been improvements in the number and variety of primary care services

Numbers and pay
There have been substantial increases in the numbers and pay of doctors, nurses, consultants, and others

Patients have a choice of hospital for non-urgent treatment

“Since 1997 there has been considerable progress in moving the NHS towards being a high-performance system”

I have shown in the previous post that spending on the NHS has substantially increased since 1997.

“stubborn and persistent” inequalities: Tackling health inequalities: 10 years on, Department of health, May 2009