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Rishi Sunak has declared war on cancer, obesity, mental health and addiction with a blueprint inspired by the Covid vaccine rollout.
The Prime Minister today announced more than £113million in funding for research into cutting-edge treatments and technologies with the aim of encouraging breakthroughs and saving billions of pounds.
Each ‘healthcare mission’ will be led by an independent expert, chosen by a panel including Dame Kate Bingham who headed the vaccine taskforce.
Ministers believe tackling the key challenges in each area could save the NHS and economy billions, with obesity alone estimated to cost the health service £6.1billion per year.
OBESITY CRISIS: More than 42million adults in the UK will be overweight or obese by 2040, according to projections by Cancer Research UK
CANCER CRISIS: Cancer care plummeted in September. Just 60.5 per cent of patients started cancer treatment within two months of being referred for chemotherapy or radiotherapy (red line). The NHS states 85 patients should start treatment within this timeframe
MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS: The number of children being referred to for mental health care is trending upwards and worrying teachers
ADDICTION CRISIS: The graph shows the number of deaths from drug poisoning in England and Wales hit 4,859 in 2021 — the highest figure since records began nearly three decades ago
Rishi Sunak has declared war on cancer, obesity, mental health and addiction with a blueprint inspired by the Covid vaccine rollout
It comes amid warnings that armed forces personnel could be brought into to drive ambulances and work in hospitals to ease disruption caused by striking nurses next month and possible strikes by ambulance staff.
The funding will go towards the top public health priorities which have been identified by the NHS, and will be staggered over the next few years.
Some £22.5million will go into cancer research to develop new therapies, including vaccines which are targeted to a patient’s specific disease.
It will also go towards finding ways to diagnose cancer earlier and more effectively.
Research into mental health will be awarded £40.2million in bid to develop digital technology to help support patients at home, for example gadgets to allow sufferers to monitor their mental health and instantly report to their doctor if in need of help.
Around £20million has been earmarked for obesity with some money going towards helping new medicines come to market — some of which have the potential to reduce a person’s weight by more than 20 per cent.
And £30.5million will be deployed towards the issue of addiction, to help prevent deaths from overdoses in the UK.
Mr Sunak said: ‘The NHS faces real pressures, which is why we are investing over £100million in the technologies and medicines of the future to address some of the biggest public health challenges facing our country.
‘This funding will improve outcomes for patients, ease existing pressures on the system and ensure that we are amongst the first to benefit from medical breakthroughs.
‘Importantly it will also help save the NHS millions of pounds that could otherwise be spent on patient care — for example by tackling obesity which costs the health service over £6billion annually.
‘It is hugely welcome too that the highly successful vaccine taskforce, which procured millions of life-saving vaccines in record time during the pandemic, will now become a blueprint for how we harness the best talent and expertise from around the world and drive investment in research and development.’
The Government say they hope to follow the vaccine approach by harnessing the best research expertise and removing ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’.
Mr Sunak, Health Secretary Steve Barclay and Business Secretary Grant Shapps will meet NHS leaders, global chief executives and key industry figures today to set the plans in motion.
NHS chief executive, Amanda Pritchard said: ‘We have already seen the incredible ways that new technology and innovation can transform NHS care and the lives of patients across the country — from glucose monitors for people living with diabetes, laser therapy for those with epilepsy to genetic life-saving testing for severely ill children and babies.
‘Just today, we fast tracked a new drug deal for men with prostate cancer that can boost their survival — showing that the NHS is already at the forefront of delivering the latest treatments for patients.
‘Working with partners, we want to build on this work even further so we can work to tackle the country’s biggest healthcare challenges.’
Each ‘healthcare mission’ will be led by an independent expert, chosen by a panel including Dame Kate Bingham who headed the vaccine taskforce
The Royal College of Nursing announced the first in a series of walk outs over pay will take place on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December
Armed forces could be brought in to drive ambulances and take on hospital roles amid fears thousands of NHS staff could strike this winter
The funding follows the launch of the dementia mission in August in memory of Dame Barbara Windsor — backed by £95million — to boost the number and speed of clinical trials into the disease.
While Mr Sunak’s pledge has been welcomed by many, others warned the NHS is also struggling with long delays for appointments and ambulances, a backlog in discharging patients and staffing issues, with nurses preparing to strike over pay.
The British Medical Association said the blueprint must be coupled with further investment in the NHS and in the welfare system.
Medical academic staff committee chairman Professor David Strain said: ‘Doctors are already struggling to pick up the pieces of a broken social safety net.
‘A stronger social safety net, backed by well-funded public services, would save thousands from needing the NHS’s services at all.
‘It is also clear that the Government needs to invest more in the NHS here and now.
‘Despite the pressures in GP practices, hospitals and other healthcare settings, the autumn statement delivered another effective pay cut to the health service’s budget.
‘This is impeding the NHS from getting on top of the backlog and providing treatment to patients who desperately need it, causing untold suffering across the country.’
It comes as health and defence officials are drawing up contingency plans for armed forces personnel to drive ambulances and work in hospitals amid plans for hundreds of thousands of NHS staff to walk out next month.
Nurses are set to walk out across the UK on December 15 and 20, while ambulance drivers and paramedics are voting on whether to join them on the picket lines in the coming weeks.
In total, more than 850,000 NHS staff members have either been balloted or are expected to be regarding strike action over pay, including nurses, junior doctors, midwives and those working in blood and transplant services.
As pressure mounts on the already record backlog in NHS waiting times, the Government could utilise the military aid to the civil authorities protocol (Maca) to keep key services running, the Times has reported.
Maca was used during the coronavirus pandemic to help struggling health staff with vaccines, testing and the delivery of protective equipment.
No formal request for help has been made by the Department of Health and Social Care to the Ministry of Defence.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said that he ‘deeply regrets’ walkouts amongst nursing staff but added that their demands — a 19 per cent pay rise — are simply ‘not affordable’.
Meanwhile, an investigation today revealed that the NHS is paying more than 2,000 hospital managers six-figure salaries.
The figure is 15 per cent higher than 12 months ago. And nearly a third are earning over £200,000.
Analysis by The Telegraph shows 2,056 managers at hospitals and commissioning boards are earning at least £100,000.