Paul Burstow MP writes… A Future-proof Health Service

The Liberal Democrats have always recognised that if we want the best health service in the world, we must continue to innovate and invest.

That is why I want to highlight how new funding announced on Monday will ultimately support life-saving research and help to protect millions of vulnerable people living with long-term conditions at home.

I have long championed the benefits of telecare and telehealth (home-based alarm and monitoring devices), so I want to highlight the fact this high-tech equipment will now be accessible to another three million people over the next five years.

This week I met a care recipient who told me how his telehealth system had taken the stress of his long term diabetes away. It is clear, therefore, that without change the rise in long term conditions could overwhelm the NHS. Telehealth is not just a technical fix. It is about changing the relationship between patients and clinicians so that people are not defined by their condition and can take back control of their life.

I am also delighted with the news that a new £180 million support package to support medical breakthroughs is to be established. This is on top of a £50 million fund aimed at giving businesses the chance to turn their medical innovations into products which could benefit those suffering from conditions like Parkinson’s. We will also see a consultation over plans to cut NHS red tape to make sure patients suffering from illnesses like lung cancer get faster access to potentially life-saving drugs.

Lastly, the Coalition will consult over proposals to change the NHS Constitution so patient data is automatically included in clinical research. Contrary to some claims, these proposals involve a clear opt-out clause for patients who do not wish their data to be transferred anonymously to researchers.

Of course, the privacy of individuals is paramount, but it must also be recognised that data sharing can help to advance public health research. For example, anonymous and aggregated data is used to promote and monitor good standards of care and can be used to track the life course of a disease to help improve future clinical outcomes. If agreed, the plans will simplify the process for researchers who want to access vital data and will reduce delays in carrying out important medical research. Furthermore, past surveillance of patient data specifically related to AIDs and CJD led to action that protected the public’s health at large.

Over the four years of the spending review period, the £4.6bn of annual funding for science and research programmes has been protected in cash terms and ring fenced against economic pressures. News of the above initiatives underlines the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to a health service able to meet the needs of future generations.

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7 Comments

  • Nice words but surely you realise £180m is a drop in the ocean – particularly when put up against the cuts in university research funding.

  • Sean Rushton 9th Dec '11 - 12:47pm

    How can you trust Lib Dems when they whipped their peers into line on the regret motion.

    I have no faith in party politics where there is no transparancy therefore I don’t believe a single word you typed.

  • Ruth Bright 9th Dec '11 - 5:25pm

    I am not sure how useful it is for LDV to just regurgitate ministerial press releases like this. When was the last time a minister actually responded to any of the comments?

  • George W. Potter,

    How do you go about freezing funding “in real terms”?

  • David Rogers 10th Dec '11 - 2:57pm

    The most important step to encourage people to take more responsibility for their long-term conditions (after lifestyle changes which might avoid them or reduce the impact) would be to encourage manufacturers of telehealth and telecare products to devote more effort into marketing them to individuals, rather than organisations. In my view, consumer advertising, and increased availability in DIY stores, other appropriate retail outlets, and online would shift perceptions about what is possible.

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