Lessons from the successful Covid-19 vaccine rollout can be used as a “blueprint for the future” to tackle a range serious illnesses, the chief executive of NHS England has said.
Sir Simon Stevens said the health service was “determined” to apply knowledge gained from the rollout to battle other “major killers”, including cancer.
He also said the NHS was looking at wide-ranging ways to reach those in need, including working with refuse collectors who had identified previously identified elderly people whose health was at risk because they were too frail to take out their rubbish.
In an article written for the Times and seen by the PA news agency, Sir Simon said: “We are determined to apply those lessons to the way the NHS supports targeted prevention and tackles other major killers such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes, as well as mental health.”
He added: “Prevention and integration are the holy grail sought by all countries’ modern health systems.
“Covid has underlined their vital importance.
“The NHS vaccination programme has shown the practical benefits and provided a blueprint for the future.”
Sir Simon said hi-tech digital schemes and improved partnerships have made it “much easier” to identify and tackle the causes of ill health, from poor housing to lifestyle, but community efforts have also proved valuable in this work.
Sir Simon pointed to refuse collectors in Chorley, Lancashire, who are “playing their part” in by identifying residents who have difficulty putting their bins out.
GP practices and council teams can then provide help to those who are frail or housebound.
Weight management classes, as well as medicines as part of a project in West Yorkshire and Harrogate, are preventing heart attacks and strokes by helping GPs identify thousands of people with undiagnosed high blood pressure and other risks.
A “remarkable national mobilisation” to help the NHS and care system during the pandemic has been driven by charities, local authorities, faith groups, the armed forces and volunteers from all backgrounds.
Sir Simon added: “The same approach is now needed to address other major health conditions.”
He said vaccinating 30 million people at the same time as the health service has had to deal with a huge winter wave of coronavirus has, “under the worst of circumstances, shown the NHS at its best”.
Sir Simon said: “With over three million people at highest risk already having had their second booster jab, hospitals are now seeing a much quicker fall in coronavirus patients than after last spring’s first wave.
“Vaccination is demonstrably working.”