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The NHS’s long-term plan is focusing on prevention, just like The Big Issue

The new 4.5bn service model aims to stop 85,000 premature deaths in England each year by stopping problems from arising in the first place – just like The Big Issue does with homelessness

The NHS unveiled its new long-term plan with a focus that is familiar to The Big Issue – prevention.

We, at The Big Issue, aim to reduce homelessness by preventing people from falling into poverty in the first place and that approach is central to the health service’s new 4.5bn plans for England.

Prevention coupled with new technology and early detection methods will aim to stop an estimated 85,000 premature deaths each year as well as 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases. The Diabetes Prevention Programme will also be expanded.

More than three million people will also be able to access new and improved stroke, respiratory and cardiac services over the next decade while neonatal care and integrated support for the elderly is also a consideration.

It is estimated that around 23,000 premature deaths and 50,000 hospital admissions will be prevented over the next decade by putting over 100,000 patients with heart problems through a healthy living and exercise programme every year. Mental health services have also been promised at least £2.3bn a year by 2023/24 to help around two million people who experience anxiety, depression or other mental health problems.

Big Issue founder John Bird has long called for prevention to play a prominent role in keeping the nation healthy, sparking a Twitter storm last year with his own call for an ‘NHS pledge’ that asked Brits to keep themselves healthy where possible to aid the health service.

Obesity, for example, is responsible for increasing cancer rates, making a person 2.5 times more likely to have high blood pressure and five times more likely to develop Type-2 diabetes, according to the Health Foundation. Obesity is responsible for an estimated 30,000 deaths each year.

He returns to the subject in this week’s Big Issue magazine, as he puts it, “I don’t know how we can ever get anywhere in life about wrongdoing, ill health, mental illness, if we don’t put an enormous effort into preventing stuff from happening.”

Speaking at today’s launch alongside Prime Minister, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “The NHS long-term plan keeps all that’s good about our health service and its place in our national life. It tackles head-on the pressures our staff face. And it sets a practical, costed, phased route map for the NHS’s priorities for care quality and outcomes improvement for the decade ahead.”

The new plan has been praised by charities British Heart Foundation, Macmillan and Mind.

“We are really pleased to see that mental health is such a key focus in the NHS long term plan and we welcome the £2.3bn set aside for mental health services,” said Paul Farmer, Mind chief executive. “This is the kind of sustained investment we need to see to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health and, if delivered, this plan will make a difference to the lives of thousands of people with mental health problems.

However, the Unite union has insisted that the new plan does not face up to ‘the grim reality of the cash crisis confronting the health service’.

“This new cash is, in reality, putting in the funding that the government removed a decade ago. ‘Smoke and mirrors’ is the name of the game,” said Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe.

“The money that is now coming on stream is not enough to meet the ambitious targets to save the almost 500,000 lives outlined in the long-term plan.

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