Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Taylor-Gooby; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Taylor-Gooby; Columnist

Article excerpt

THERE has been considerable comment in the media lately about the pressures on the NHS. Some has been of the shroud-waving variety, but programmes such as the BBC series about St Mary's in London show the pressures on a major trauma centre in the capital. There is general agreement, however, that there is a funding issue, particularly for social care.

You may have noticed that there is not so much fuss about the North East. No one would deny there are problems, but the NHS in our region is generally acknowledged to be the best in the country. The North of England Commissioning Support Unit, which provides the administrative backup, is much admired and sought after by the NHS in other parts of the country. And where I live you can get an emergency GP appointment on the same day. All this despite our per capita funding being reduced.

So does this mean everything here is fine? Unfortunately no, because, paradoxically, having good health services does not guarantee good health. The North East is considered to have some of the worst health in the country, and health inequalities between the North and the South still stubbornly persist. But there also considerable inequalities within the region. Recent work by Newcastle University has shown that a 55-year-old living in Ponteland can currently look forward to another 20 years of disability-free life, while in Byker - only 10 miles away - a 55-year-old can only expect nine.

There are two big issues. One is unhealthy lifestyles, and the other is the problem of caring for people with long-term conditions, that is things which patients suffer from, but require care not cure in the community rather than in a hospital. At present they account for 70% of NHS spending. Dealing with both these issues are agencies separate from the NHS and run by local government, public health, and social care.

There have been considerable successes with reducing unhealthy lifestyles. A substantial reduction in teenage pregnancies, and the FRESH campaign, which had the NHS working regionally with local authorities, has achieved the highest reduction in smoking in the country. Similarly there has been a reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease. …

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