The NHS is our most cherished public service. It is something we know people deeply care about and on Wednesday this week NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens spoke about the need for further investment to keep it improving, to meet increasing and changing demand and to remain the leading health service in the world. There is no doubt this is necessary. There can also be no doubt that we get the most return on investment when we fund prevention, which is a much smarter thing to do than dealing with the consequences we face otherwise. These are not choices, both are necessary. PHE has been intensely focusing on making the economic case for prevention, from our work on cardiovascular disease prevention to publishing a Health Economics Evidence Resource and several return-on-investment tools. We also know that good health is about much more than healthcare, as important as this is, but more to do with ensuring economic prosperity reaches the most vulnerable and best expressed through the importance of having a job, a decent home and friendship. In short, health and wealth are inseparable and income drives outcomes.
On Tuesday I joined a community public involvement event in Gloucester, involving six local councils, the local and national NHS and over 100 voluntary and third sector organisations. The message that rang clear throughout the day was how important and valuable small, locally based voluntary and third sector organisations are and how much they support the people they reach, which is often the most vulnerable. Helping people to get well and stay well heavily depends on friends, neighbours and local communities and these organisations do an incredible job in supporting, encouraging and bringing people together. During the day we talked about the importance of hearing each other more, recognising that small charities find it hard to compete for resources with the bigger ones and searching for practical solutions that would help with this. I look forward very much to the follow up event in London in January and thank Bren McInerney, community volunteer, for organising such an inspiring day.
This week we published the drug and alcohol treatment figures for 2016, showing that services are performing well and largely meeting the needs of those with drug misuse problems. The number of people using crack cocaine is concerning but it is encouraging to see services responding well to this increase. Less good is the fall in alcohol treatment numbers and we need to reflect on how to better ensure those with alcohol addiction get into treatment when they need it the most. The return on investment for people in treatment is substantial and on drugs alone, for every £1 invested on treatment there is a £2.50 benefit to society.
And finally, at the end of 2013, our Genomic Services and Development Unit started generating whole genome sequences for bacteria and viruses and have now registered over 100,000. This week the team were offered accreditation by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), one of the first UK laboratories to achieve this for whole genome sequencing of bacteria and viruses. This work is of vital importance to the nation, quiet and unseen by most, which helps improve outbreak management and surveillance and replaces less precise laboratory tests and I warmly congratulate them.
With best wishes,
Friday messages from 2012-2016 are available on GOV.UK