Last week saw the publication of Lord Darzi’s Better Health for London and his recommendations for improving the health of Londoners and the care they receive.
This attracted considerable media interest, both in London and nationally, and it was heartening that attention was focused on the action needed to support Londoners to keep well and that - whatever views were expressed on specific proposals - no one questioned our need to address serious, deep seated issues, if the health of Londoners is to be better in future.
The report was the culmination of a year’s work by the London Health Commission, set up to support Lord Darzi after he was asked by the Mayor to advise him on his health role.
Tremendous work is already being led by a range of organisations from local government and the NHS to voluntary and community organisations but this focus was on the potential added value of action by the Mayor, on those issues that local organisations can’t solve alone. The aim being to build on existing solid foundations in order to use all of the assets London has in facing up to our major health challenges.
The level of interest expressed by organisations and individuals who have come forward to comment and enquire is further testament to the nature and quality of the work. It’s also an indication of how interest in promoting good health has grown.
Previous reports on health in London have focused on how to improve health services, with scant attention paid to public health. This has now decisively changed and there is an appetite for action on public health. Polling that took place as part of the work of the Commission also made it clear that it is not just that professional opinion has changed, Londoners themselves also recognise the importance of keeping well and show high levels of endorsement for many of the recommendations that Lord Darzi has made.
I along with Paul Plant, our deputy director for health improvement, and other PHE London colleagues had the privilege of supporting this work, leading the Healthier Lives work stream of the Commission. During this time Paul and I met a range of Londoners including community and voluntary groups, charities as well as professionals working in local government, the NHS and other sectors. They all gave freely of their time and offered their views and suggestions regarding how best to support Londoners to keep well.
Their energy, passion, commitment and professionalism was inspiring. I believe those that contributed are a real asset, but know from my own experience there are even larger numbers of people who have much to offer our collective endeavour.
We now have the ingredients to collectively make an impact at scale on the health of Londoners - an appetite for change and the right people with passion and skill to lead and be involved as we move forward.
Lord Darzi’s recommendations provide an excellent basis from which to start.
He sets out how London can become the world’s healthiest major global city, centred on 10 aspirations, with specific measurable ambitions to focus action and judge progress. We now need to engage in the detail of what he has set out, bringing stakeholders with us, to refine, test and focus our efforts.
It will be hard work and complex as it will require a coalition of partners.
I am optimistic though. If we keep focused on these outcomes, have an approach to partnership and delivery that is open, respectful and based on what each can best offer, London’s health can get better.
Londoners need to be at the heart of our work and we need to marshal all the assets of London. Local government is key, they have the health improvement responsibilities and are the ones based placed to lead and do this work in communities. They recognise they will not be able to solve entrenched problems alone so will welcome a partnership of equals.
The actions for the Mayor in Lord Darzi’s report acting in tandem with those of others to magnify our collective impact. A goal for PHE London will be doing everything we can to support.
Supporting documents for the report, including the polling undertaken by the London health Commission, can be found at: http://www.londonhealthcommission.org.uk/supportingdocuments/