Health screening back on the agenda

Reported cases of diabetes increased by almost fifty per cent from 2005 to 2011. There are now 2.9 million sufferers, up from two million in 2005 when GPs first published diabetes data. Lord Collins of Highbury today called for the promotion of screening services to increase early detection of the condition. This proposal was contained in an LGiU/Westminster report entitled Payment by results: The perfect storm of public sector finances, published in May 2011.

The LGiU encouraged councils to use their new preventive health role to target three big killer diseases; diabetes, heart disease and dementia. Each of these conditions imposes significant costs on the government and society. Councils could reduce these costs by running a health screening programme.

For greater detail a blog describing our preventive health proposals is available. The scale of the potential savings depends on whether the government will share them with councils. We outlined a transformative approach based on savings to both government and local authorities. We included an incremental approach based on savings to the council alone.

Identifying those most at risk of getting these diseases will allow us to deploy targeted preventive programmes. The images above show the importance of targeting preventive measures. Both feature Birmingham. The image on the left shows that heart disease screening is occurring in the outer part of Birmingham but not the centre of the city. The image on the right shows incidences of heart disease. You will see they are mainly concentrated in the centre of Birmingham. This is the result of current NHS practice.

Those who argue council provision leads to a postcode lottery need to realise that our national health service is not delivering uniform care at the moment. Council’s knowledge of their communities will allow them to target services better. Where differences exist they will occur because of local democratic choices. Preventive health will allow innovative approaches to be tried in different areas. We can find out what works and apply it more widely. Everyone will benefit from more localised health services.