Gordon Brown: An ageing population demands another revolution in healthcare

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The Independent Online

Too often the change to an older society is seen by our sometimes youth-focused culture as a threat or a burden. As a country we need to recognise that it has the potential to be a far more positive change affecting not just our public services but also the shape and character of our society. For our families, I believe it can be a change for the better.

Opposing reform is the fiscally irresponsible course of action at a time when we must be looking to ensure that every pound, whether public and private, is used wisely – when failure to act increases the costs of ageing and simply wastes money. We know also we are not asking for the impossible: already a number of pioneering local authorities and PCTs have achieved great things – providing dignity and support at home, reducing unnecessary care elsewhere, and reducing overall costs too. In places as different as Knowsley on Merseyside and the Isle of Wight off the south coast they have shown the way in what can be done – with highly effective partnership working between NHS and local social care practitioners, overcoming traditional demarcations between professionals and the services they offer, and putting people first.

It would have been easy in 1948 for government to concede meekly that our public services and welfare systems could not be a priority in such times. But they kept to their vision. We know what they achieved. An NHS that delivers quality, equity and cost-effectiveness in health care: a remarkable and internationally lauded achievement we must now match more widely – for the better care of our ageing society.

Today the challenge could not be greater. We face a clear choice between: reform and a radically improved health and care services with guarantees that meet the need for more, better, and more personalised care at home. The alternative – rejecting our guarantees for personalised care, undermining high standards in the NHS, and sending our country back into a spiral of poor and fragmented care, damaged growth, greater means testing and rising costs because they do not understand the needs and aspirations of families today. Our choice is clear. For personalised, reformed and guaranteed health and social care services that meet the aspirations of the people of Britain.

Taken from a speech given by the Prime Minister to the King's Fund yesterday