Prevention is better than cure, say MSPs

12.11.2018

There is a lack of public health policies designed to prevent illness according to MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee.

In a report published today on preventative action and public health, MSPs found that the health service was over-reliant on tackling existing problems rather than preventing them from happening. Most activity focuses on treating illness in an early stage or preventing the problem becoming worse. 

Convener of the Committee, Lewis Macdonald MSP said:  

“We’ve all heard the old adage that prevention is better than cure. The preventative agenda – spending money now with the intention of reducing public spend on negative outcomes in the future – is nothing new.

“However, what this inquiry has found is that there simply is not enough activity within Scotland to support this. It is imperative that across all policy areas focus is prioritised on preventing people becoming ill with diseases we know are avoidable.  

“By doing this we can also start reducing health inequality and whilst the health service can’t fix everything, it must play its role in tackling this fundamental issue.” 
 
The Committee did find some positive examples which demonstrate how well preventative policies can work.  For example, NHS Highland reported that around 80 hospital beds a day had been used by older people who had suffered a fall. By delivering training in care homes, town halls and leisure centres on falls prevention there was a significant drop in the number of admissions.   

The report also looks at 8 specific areas of preventative action including type 2 diabetes; substance mis-use; sexual health, detecting cancer early, neurological conditions, optometry services, sport and leisure trusts and clean air.

On detecting cancer early, the report found that there is a lack of urgency or incentive within health boards to meet the targets in relation to cancer treatment. The Committee is asking the Government when they expect each Health Board to meet the 62 day and 31 day target for treatment.

Following a review of NHS targets, the Committee is keen to support the creation of new indicators that are meaningful and also to understand how new measures of inputs and effectiveness can be designed to encourage and support an increase in prevention.

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