The NHS Long Term Plan was published this week, which has a ten year reform agenda with prevention and population health at its heart. There are new, funded actions on tobacco control, support for those most heavily dependent on alcohol, cardiovascular disease and from early years to dementia and much else.
This has involved a collective effort by many across the public health family, working with NHS colleagues and I want to say a big thank you for that.
We want people to live healthier lives, to use the NHS less and later in life, to be able to stay in work for longer and when they are unwell, to stay in their own home for longer. This is a public health narrative now shared by the NHS with practical costed actions. It is also an agenda for strengthening personal responsibility alongside national and local action, and where prevention becomes increasingly personalised, making optimal use of digital platforms and behavioural science.
Local authorities have now been responsible for commissioning public health services for five years and have brought considerable skill and ingenuity to improving outcomes and saving money, both necessary with reductions in the public health grant.
The rationale for local government to lead on public health remains unchanged, but the NHS plan has asked whether there is a stronger role for the NHS to play in commissioning sexual health, health visiting and school nursing. This work will be led by the Department of Health and Social care to ensure we have the best possible join up between the NHS and local government and that resourcing is properly considered through the spending review. Local authority directors of public health will bring invaluable expertise and insight to this.
In other news this week, our indicators show that flu is now circulating in England. We are currently seeing a strain called A(H1N1)pdm09, that often affects working-age adults and children. The good news is that this strain is well matched to the strains in the flu vaccines for this season and uptake in pre-school age children is at its highest ever. However, rates of vaccination among eligible adults including pregnant women are slightly lower than recent seasons. It is not too late to get vaccinated and doing so protects other people.
The new UK Measles and Rubella Elimination Strategy was published on Wednesday, mapping out how we can achieve a future free of measles, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which can lead to serious birth defects. Since it was introduced in the UK in 1968, it is estimated that the measles vaccination has averted 20 million measles cases and 4,500 deaths and the rubella vaccine has averted an estimated 1,300 CRS births and 25,000 terminations. This is a phenomenal public health achievement. You can read more about measles in our blog.
And finally, this week PHE informed the public that two cases of extensively drug-resistant gonorrhoea have been acquired, one in the UK and one in another European country. Both cases showed similar patterns of resistance to both first line antibiotics used to treat gonorrhoea, which is very concerning. While both cases were successfully treated, they serve as a reminder that prevention is preferable to treatment.
Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK