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Duncan Selbie’s Friday message – 22 June 2018

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Dear everyone

You will all have seen the very welcome news from the Prime Minister this week that a settlement has been agreed for the NHS over the next five years.  This is good news for patients and NHS colleagues because it provides a renewed financial certainty and an opportunity to accelerate the reforms to services we all want to see.  In her speech, the PM challenged the NHS and health and care system to develop a new long-term plan setting out how improvements to cancer, mental health and other services will be achieved.  The PM emphasised that prevention should be at the heart of this.  As public health leaders we now have a new opportunity to put prevention centre stage, so we must all – local Government, NHS, the third sector and Government - seize this moment and use this new investment to ensure people are living healthier for longer.

The NHS Health Check is led by local government and is one of the biggest prevention programmes in the world, having benefitted almost 7 million people so far and we have now published the results of the first five years. The check primarily focuses on reducing cardiovascular disease risk and we are extending this to embrace dementia, with the main message being: ‘what is good for the heart is good for the brain’. With an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK this is a timely and welcome enhancement to the programme. Read more here.

On Monday PHE published surveillance data from England on Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections, which shows the HPV vaccination has led to an 86% reduction in HPV infections since it was introduced ten years ago. The 5 high-risk types of HPV together cause around 90% of cervical cancer cases, which is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35. This is very promising and we expect to see significant reductions in cervical cancer in the future. More information can be found here.

On Wednesday and Thursday PHE held the annual Cancer Services, Data and Outcomes Conference, which explored how data is being used across the whole patient pathway to prevent, diagnose and help treat people with cancer. Our National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service collects and analyses a quarter of a billion separate data items every year at eight regional centres across England. A key concern explored during the conference was the 20% increased risk of suicide that cancer patients face, highlighted by a PHE and University College London study.  The study revealed that the highest risk of suicide in cancer patients is seen within the first six months of diagnosis. The reasons are complex and not fully understood, but what is clear is a need for emotional support to be integrated early into cancer care, alongside diagnosis and treatment.

And finally, this week I visited PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards in Chilton where every day, under the radar and with no fanfare, scientific work takes place to keep the nation safe and secure. Much of CRCE’s work is focused on major non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, working on topics such as radiation protection, air pollution, chemicals in the environment, toxicology, heat, cold, and noise.  This expertise is provided across the UK with satellite centres in Leeds, Glasgow and Cardiff. We are extremely privileged to have these colleagues and the centre is a jewel in our crown.

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  1. Comment by Graham posted on Worth a read, links to Duncan's comment about seizing the opportunity of working across public services to prevent illness. What an exciting opportunity.