The Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will today launch a watered-down version of the NHS contract that was drafted just four months ago by his predecessor, Andrew Lansley.
Mr Hunt will set the NHS a new objective to extend the lives of its citizens under a contract with the Government.
Called the NHS Mandate, the draft version, published in July, said that a target would be set for an additional number of “life years” that were to have been secured for the population of England by 2015. This would be achieved by reducing avoidable deaths – for example, by speeding up diagnoses of cancer.
The draft did not say what the target should be but it said that by halving the gap between cancer survival rates in England and those in the best-performing countries, 5,000 lives could be saved. In the document to be published today, the target has disappeared. In its place it will say “measurable progress” must be made in adding life years by 2015. More ambitiously, it will say the NHS should aim to make England the best in the world on cancer survival, which could save 20,000 lives. But it does not specify a date by which the goal should be reached.
The NHS Mandate will also set a new objective on dementia, requiring “measurable progress” to improve the numbers diagnosed early, which currently stands at 42 per cent. It will also specify improvements in the quality of care.
It is the first time the NHS has formally been set an objective, on which it will be held accountable, based on the outcomes of treatment (lives saved) rather than the process of care (number of patients treated). Meeting the objectives will require the NHS to co-ordinate care more effectively with social services and public health.