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Matt Hancock: My vision for prevention

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Health Improvement, Prevention

Prevention is a bigger health topic than many people realise – and it’s about to get bigger.

When we think about staying healthy, it’s often within the narrow bandwidth of eating well, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking. These are important issues for us all to address of course, but there’s so much more to it than smoothies, park runs and vaping.

In fact, I have no doubt that, if we get prevention right, it holds the key to longer, healthier, happier lives and a sustainable, high quality health and care system guaranteed for many generations to come.

This is not just about keeping well physically and mentally, or preventing ill health in the future – it’s about the environment around us, the lifestyle choices we make and how we manage existing health conditions, many of which – like some cancers – cannot currently be prevented.

It’s why, when I became Health Secretary, I made it one of my big three priorities alongside advancing health technology and doing much more to support our amazing health and social care workforce.

My new Prevention vision, launched this week, is radical and ambitious.

It sets out a new approach to:

  • keeping people healthy, happy and treating their health problems quickly
  • empowering people to manage their own physical and mental health needs closer to home with the support of professionals in the community
  • delivering care in the right place, in settings that suit them and their needs

My vision document - Prevention is better than cure - sets out how we can use new technology, workplace strategies and the power of local communities to support people with health issues and prevent worsening health.

As set out in the Government’s Aging Society Grand Challenge launched earlier this year, it’s our aim for this country’s population to enjoy, on average, five more years of healthy, independent living by 2035, while closing the gap between the richest and the poorest.

That means:

  • Prioritising investment in primary and community healthcare
  • Making sure every child has the best start in life
  • Supporting local councils to take the lead in improving health locally through innovation, communication and community outreach
  • Coordinating transport, housing, education, the workplace and the environment – in the grand enterprise to improve our nation’s health
  • Involving employers, businesses, charities, the voluntary sector and local groups in creating safe, connected and healthy neighbourhoods and workplaces

The vision is a call to action for every part of society – a call which includes providing care and support for those providing care (formal or informal), not just those receiving it.

So, I want to see NHS, public health, social care and local authority leaders, employers, trainers and educators do much, much more to help their dedicated workforces remain healthy, empowered and valued.

And of course, I want all of us as individuals to think more about the preventive measures we can take to maintain our health and how we might contribute to the wellbeing of our communities.

There is, of course, a cost benefit to all of this. Each year, we are spending £97 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion preventing it across the UK – that’s an imbalance in urgent need of correction. We must get smarter about where we focus our efforts and spend our money, not least because preventative treatments cost less than retrograde treatments further down the line.

Making this shift in favour of prevention requires additional funding and more staff in community services. That’s where the NHS Long Term Plan and the additional £20.5bn a year by the end of 2023-24 comes into play.  We expect this additional funding to support health and social care services to prioritise prevention; with a greater focus on community care, mental health, and primary care.

Finally, the Government is committed to using artificial intelligence (AI), genomics and other technologies to transform the way we diagnose and treat chronic diseases. The advances in clinically directed computer algorithms to detect eye disease and cancer symptoms (even to the point of recommending referrals as accurately as their human peers) are simply breath-taking – as are systems capable of sifting anonymised patient data to target early intervention and bespoke treatment plans.

This Prevention Vision would not have been possible without the research, analysis and insights of a great many experts in their field and – most importantly – the hopes, needs and aspirations of the people of this country. A big thank you to everyone who has already contributed to the vision. I look forward to working with you on developing a Prevention Green Paper next year to set out specific policies to fulfil our ambitions.

Prevention is not only better than cure, it’s our best hope to create a happier, healthier, more independent future – help me bring that future into the present.

Visit  to find out more about the vision. There you’ll find case studies revealing how some aspects are already being implemented. Now is the time for everyone to work together to make it a reality across the country.

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  1. Comment by Shamil Haroon posted on

    Ultimately, the most effective and long-term way of improving life expectancy, wellbeing, and economic prosperity is by investing in parenting, education, and employment, particularly in the most deprived parts of the country. This, in my view, is where the priority for prevention should lie.

    • Replies to Shamil Haroon>

      Comment by John Campbell posted on

      Parenting is the key one, and the one that can actually be impacted fairly easily. Simple, basic messages (a sheet of A4?) for all parents-to-be, e.g. 1. no abuse, 2. keep expectations reasonable.

  2. Comment by Gordon Cairns posted on

    Who's kidding Who here you say prevention is best then cut Public Health Budgets by £500m next year so the ones who lead on prevention get less to spend on prevention . Are you going to cut money from front line treatment to fund this apparent boost in prevention or put more emphasis on underfunded third sector organisations doing more of the work . . I know prevention is the way to go but you don't cut money from Public Health England and Council Public Health spending every year to do this , You mention firms doing more to help their workforce .The best way of them doing that is paying a decent wage so workers can feed themselves and their families wholesome foods not hound them into going to work before they have recovered as it seems you want . I am appalled by the way you come into power in health and want to tell Patients what you think is best for them . All right I am a multi morbidity person who is retired and spends a full working week on a voluntary basis trying to help in any way I can to the Local Health Service do a good job for Patients . I am a Foundation Trust Governor .Diagnosed at 70 years old with Autistic Syndrome Disorder Asperger's High performing and had Anxiety and Depression for 45 years and depression for 14 years also had Prostate Cancer and only one eye . Prevention Great if the money is new not filched off Secondary Care Budgets so people have to have longer waits for life preserving operations

    • Replies to Gordon Cairns>

      Comment by Enid Khan posted on

      Sooo well said, Gordon - your comments say it all ! MH's proposals appear sooo 'nice, soo generous and kind' to ill-informed / naive members of the public but they recognise how little of the cuts that have undermined our public services throughout the last 10+ years

  3. Comment by John Campbell posted on

    None of the case studies are on mental health, and no real teeth in the mental health content in the document.

    Underlines need for research on how to prevent mental illness.
    MRC spend on mental illness research needs to be raised above 3% of it's total medical research spend...
    A new mental health research centre is needed to attain critical mass.

  4. Comment by Kiggundu George posted on

    Health promotion is very relevant today. There is a global acceptance that health and social wellbeing are determined by many factors outside the health system which include socioeconomic conditions, patterns of consumption associated with food and communication, demographic patterns, learning environments, family patterns, the cultural and social fabric of societies; sociopolitical and economic changes, including commercialization and trade and global environmental change. In such a situation, health issues can be effectively addressed by adopting a holistic approach by empowering individuals and communities to take action for their health, fostering leadership for public health, promoting intersectoral action to build healthy public policies in all sectors and creating sustainable health systems. Although, not a new concept, health promotion received an impetus following Alma Ata declaration. Recently it has evolved through a series of international conferences, with the first conference in Canada producing the famous Ottawa charter. Efforts at promoting health encompassing actions at individual and community levels, health system strengthening and multi sectoral partnership can be directed at specific health conditions. It should also include settings-based approach to promote health in specific settings such as schools, hospitals, workplaces, residential areas etc. Health promotion needs to be built into all the policies and if utilized efficiently will lead to positive health outcomes.

  5. Comment by Amanda J. posted on

    How patronising!!!! Perhaps government should think of an end to alcohol advertising, fast food advertising, gambling site advertising to name a few. Then its members can start telling the rest of us how we need to be taking more personal responsibility. And put more funding into education!!

  6. Comment by Luther Blissett posted on

    This is headline grabbing nonsense, and disingenuous. Your party has cut the public health budget and systematically eroded the capacity of local government to sustain community assets that support a prevent agenda (from early years support to libraries etc). What you are trumpeting here is a new-conservative view of responsible individuals taking care of themselves (never mind that poverty is the key issue driving health inequality) coupled with a new-liberal view of how to organise society. Your government has increased inequality and is bankrupt on ideas to fix it.

  7. Comment by Julie Irish posted on

    Some strong view points here and I agree with them.

  8. Comment by Dr Michael C Watson posted on

    The Institute of Health Promotion and Education warmly welcomes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s new vision 'Prevention is better than cure'.(1) It has much to commend it including seeking to put prevention at the heart of national and local government policy and prioritising investment in primary and community healthcare. However, we do have three major concerns: timescale; potential focus downstream; and funding............................

  9. Comment by Nigel Bates posted on

    How enlightened. There are already so many examples of how technology enabled care solutions can help drive costs out of social care and health systems which (if realised and ringfenced appropriately) can be re-invested in further preventative initiatives.