NHS 'must expand local services'

New NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, pictured having his blood pressure taken

New NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, pictured having his blood pressure taken

First published in National News © by

The NHS must end "mass centralisation" and instead expand its local services to treat people in their own communities, the new boss of NHS England has said.

Chief executive Simon Stevens, who began the role last month, said too many patients are being robbed of "dignity and compassion" because of a lack of local care.

Many health services in western Europe were already successfully serving their local communities without centralising everything, he added.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "A number of other countries have found it possible to run viable local hospitals serving smaller communities than sometimes we think are sustainable in the NHS.

"Most of western Europe has hospitals which are able to serve their local communities, without everything having to be centralised."

He warned the complex care systems outside of hospitals must change and investment is needed in community services for the elderly to stop spiralling numbers ending up in hospital.

"You cannot have a modern health service that is not treating older patients with dignity and compassion, supporting them at home and ensuring targeted prevention [of ill health].

He added: "There is a big opportunity to reorganise that so it meets the needs of those at home. At the moment it is too complicated and too fragmented.

"If you were starting from scratch you would not design community services like that."

Businesses should also financially reward employees for losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle, he suggested, mimicking similar schemes in the US.

He blamed the European Working Time Directive for damaging healthcare in the NHS and making it harder for smaller hospitals to remain open, while waiting targets introduced under Labour became an impediment to care in too many cases.

On Wednesday he will make a speech to the NHS Confederation's conference in Liverpool, outlining new models of care to build community services around small hospitals and meet the needs of an ageing population.

He said it could see hospitals taking over the running of some GP services, and more close working between specialist and community care.

Before taking on his new role, Mr Stevens was president of global health and group executive vice-president at UnitedHealth, the US private healthcare firm, and had also worked across the NHS running hospitals, health authorities and community services.

He is taking over from Sir David Nicholson, who decided to retire following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

Mr Stevens had been widely regarded as Prime Minister David Cameron's preferred candidate for the job and was previously a health adviser to Tony Blair when he was prime minister.

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