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Brown pledges more preventative NHS

Gordon Brown promised a more personal and preventative NHS today as a new national health screening programme to provide patients with early warning of some of the biggest killer diseases was announced.

The Prime Minister said on GMTV: "What I want to have is a 21st century, modern health service that people think is rightly personal to your needs, not some service provided by someone else but you can organise it around your needs.

"So if you want a check-up, if you want screening, if you want a preventative vaccine, if you want advice on health and fitness... the health service is there for you, and it is a preventative health service so it is preventing illness as well as dealing with illness."

His remarks came he declared the Government's intention to set up the first national screening programme of its kind in the world, spotting the early signs of heart problems, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease and providing the sort of wellbeing tests generally available only to private patients.

Mr Brown was also announcing plans to make key diagnostic procedures such as blood tests, electro-cardiograms (ECGs) and ultrasounds available in local GP surgeries, to help cut waiting times.

In his first major speech on health since becoming Prime Minister last year, Mr Brown will say: "A more personal and preventative service will be one that intervenes earlier, with more information and control put more quickly into the hands of patient and clinician.

"Over time everyone in Britain will have access to the right preventative health check-up...

"There will soon be check-ups on offer to monitor for heart disease, strokes, diabetes and kidney disease - conditions which affect the lives of 6.2 million people, cause 200,000 deaths each year and account for a fifth of all hospital admissions."

In the next few months, Health Secretary Alan Johnson will set out plans to introduce NHS tests to identify vulnerability to a range of heart and circulation problems, Mr Brown will say.

Vascular screening, to be introduced this year or early 2009, will include a series of blood, fat and sugar tests in GP surgeries, alongside questions on age, gender, postcode, family history, height and weight.

Those identified as being at risk will have access to treatment, advice and support to make necessary lifestyle changes to avoid ill-health.

And as many as 1,600 lives could be saved each year by offering men over 65 a simple ultrasound test for early abdominal aortic aneurysm - or "triple A", the weakening of the main artery from heart to abdomen, which kills more than 3,000 men annually.

Early detection of the potentially fatal condition will allow preventative surgery for patients at risk.

Mr Brown will also announce further moves to meet the Government's target of a maximum 18-week waiting time from diagnosis to treatment.

"We will extend the availability of diagnostic procedures in the GP surgery - making blood tests, ECGs and, in some cases, ultrasounds available and on offer not only when you are acutely unwell or if you can pay, but when you want and need them, where you need them, at the local surgery," he will say.

The Prime Minister will say that, in its 60th anniversary year, the renewal of the NHS is the Government's highest priority.

"Amongst global healthcare systems, the NHS is uniquely well-placed to deliver a transformation in the relationship between patients and clinicians," he will say.

"It remains one of the most trusted organisations in British society, its doctors, nurses and staff recognised by everyone as a force for good in our country. This is why renewal of the NHS will be our highest priority.

"Our goal: deeper and wider reform, building on the values, principles and idealism of the NHS to create for the next decade an NHS that is here for all of us but personal to each of us, focused on prevention as much as cure, and strong and confident enough to put real control into the hands of individuals and their clinicians.

"This is a worthy mission for an institution as great and as significant in our lives as the National Health Service and it is a transformation I ask you all to be a part of."