Open letter from 10 former health and care ministers
This is the full version of an open letter which appeared in The Times on Thursday 22 September 2022
We are deeply concerned by the lack of meaningful debate about the future of the health system. At its creation, the National Health Service was visionary. Three quarters of a century later, facing unprecedented pressures, it is ill-equipped to cope with the dramatically different health needs of today’s population.
A Service largely built to provide episodic care is now heavily dominated by treatment of chronic conditions and multi-morbidity. Healthcare is accounting for an ever-growing share of public spending, yet on many indicators the health of the population is deteriorating. This is broadly true of all high-income health systems.
Our hospital-centric model is no longer fit for purpose. Yet despite successive plans and strategies committing to shift focus and expenditure towards prevention and community-based care, little real progress has been made. In fact, NHS spending on hospitals as a share of health spending has been increasing since 2015. An urgent rethink is needed.
Failing to act means failing citizens, patients and health and care workers. Without fundamental reform, the health – and therefore prosperity – of the nation, along with the NHS itself, will continue to decline.
As former health ministers we welcome the launch of Reform think tank’s new ‘Reimagining health’ programme. We are all agreed on the urgent need for an honest conversation about how we improve the health of the nation. We are not all agreed on solutions or even some of the ideas set out in Reform’s launch paper, but that should not stop us having the discussion. Now is the time for politicians of all colours to set ideology aside, now is the time to develop a sustainable new settlement for the future.
Rt Hon Alistair Burt, former Minister of State for Community and Social Care, Department of Health
Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell, former Secretary of State for Health, Department of Health
Rt Hon Caroline Flint, former Minister of State for Public Health, Department of Health
George Freeman, former Minister for Life Sciences, Department of Health
Rt Hon Lord Hutton of Furness, former Minister of State for Health Services, Department of Health
Rt Hon Sir Norman Lamb, former Minister of State for Care and Support, Department of Health
Dr Dan Poulter MP, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Services, Department of Health
Lord Prior of Brampton, former Chair, NHS England and former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Health Services Productivity, Department of Health
Lord Bethell of Romford, former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Department of Health and Social Care
The Rt Hon Lord Warner, former Minister of State for NHS Delivery, Department of Health