My Lords, the Department of Health plans to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service in a number of ways. At national level, activities include a service of celebration at Westminster Abbey and publication of a history of the NHS. NHS Live and the Health and Social Care Awards will also be focused around the anniversary. Locally, we expect NHS organisations to celebrate in the most appropriate way for their staff, patients and communities.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and agree that we have much to celebrate. Does he agree that prior to 1997 the chronic under-funding of the NHS led many people to question its survival as a universal service, free at the point of use? Would he further agree that this Government's record investments in the NHS have now put its future on a secure footing for many years to come?
My Lords, the Government's record level of investment in the NHS coupled with reform have put the service on a firm and sustainable footing. The challenge now is to build on that investment and create a truly sustainable NHS; one that gives patients and the public more information and choice, works in partnership and has quality of care at its heart. We set out this vision in the next stage review, published yesterday.
My Lords, as it is 63 years since I graduated in medicine, I imagine that I am the only Member of your Lordships' House who was practicing medicine before the NHS came in. When I delivered the BMA lecture in 1996 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Health Service Act, I said that in those 50 years I had lived through eight reorganisations of the NHS. In the past 12 years there have been 14. The Government now have the opportunity to consider in detail the interesting report that the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, has just published. When the review has been completed, may we have an assurance that there will be no further reorganisations so that the dedicated staff of the NHS can get on with their major responsibility of caring for patients?
My Lords, the report on the NHS next stage review, published yesterday, made the commitment that there will be no restructure or organisational change. That commitment is also secured with an NHS constitution which will take the NHS into the next decade.
My Lords, would not an appropriate way to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS be for the Government to fulfil their manifesto promise to end mixed-sex wards? Would it not also be appropriate to end the scandal where people of modest means who buy their own drugs are then denied treatment by the NHS?
My Lords, this Government have made a commitment to single-sex accommodation. The report we published yesterday brings in the say of the patient. Funding will follow the patient experience. That in itself will be the strongest incentive in the system for all NHS providers to ensure that patients are in single-sex accommodation. On the funding of NHS drugs, the Government have also made a commitment to expedite the approval of drugs through the NICE process, reducing the time from two years to between three and six months.
My Lords, I cannot claim to have practiced medicine before the invention of the National Health Service but I must have been one of the first patients to have benefited from it, for which I am grateful. After 60 years of ever more exotic treatments on the NHS—presumably with at least another 60 years to come—does the Minister think that we are healthier as a consequence?
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. These exotic treatments are based on evidence. The evidence is that both men and women are living on average 10 years longer than they did before the creation of the NHS in 1948.
My Lords, I join with many in the House in rejoicing in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the NHS. I recognise that there are many significant challenges in the years ahead. Will the Minister assure us that the needs of those suffering from mental illnesses such as dementia and schizophrenia will remain central to the strategic policy and will be effectively resourced in the future?
My Lords, the next stage review makes a commitment through the local reviews. There are 10 regional reviews in which the vision for mental health is clearly described. We are also for the first time setting the NHS proactively to meet the challenges of the future, which include dementia and other mental health disorders.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the most welcome developments in 60 years has been the move from cure to prevention—in other words, maintaining good health, which my noble friend emphasised in his report? Will he tell the House more about the Government's commitment to prevention as well as cure?
My Lords, the NHS aspires to convert itself from a sickness service to a well-being service, and we made four commitments yesterday: first, to create a coalition between Government, the private sector and the voluntary sector in ensuring that we tackle some of the challenges facing us in preventive medicine; secondly, we will be launching a campaign about reducing the risk of the major killers such as cardiovascular disease; thirdly, we will be introducing reforms to the quality and outcomes framework to ensure that prevention is at the heart of primary and community services; and, fourthly, we will be piloting a fit-for-work scheme, which was recently announced by Dame Carol Black.
My Lords, single-sex bays, or single-sex accommodation, refers to a previously large ward that has been divided into small bays and accommodation. They are called "wards". So far as our definition is concerned, we are committed to the provision of single-sex bays and accommodation.
My Lords, is it not time to acknowledge, in an anniversary year, that, despite the day-to-day problems that will occur and the difficulties and issues that have to be resolved, the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 was the greatest achievement of any peacetime Government of the 20th century—and is it not worth reminding anyone with a short memory that it was an achievement of a great Labour Government?