Hancock outlines early priorities

Matt Hancock has listed technology, workforce and prevention of illness as his three initial priorities to improving health and social care.

With an ageing society and 10 million more people projected to be living with a long-term condition by 2030, a radical shift was needed that focused on preventative, joined-up care centred around individuals, the health and social care secretary of state said.

In his first speech since taking over from Jeremy Hunt earlier this month, Hancock announced that more than £400m will be made available to improve technology in hospitals, with a further £75m for trusts to replace paper-based systems.

He said technology and data innovation offered an opportunity to move past a binary approach. ‘Only in health and care has new technology always seemed to lead to inexorably higher costs. In every other area of life, innovation reduces waste and drives costs down not up. We’ve got to make that happen in health and care too,’ he said.

During his speech, the former culture secretary admitted social care budgets were under ‘even more intense pressure’ and that the country needed to ‘find a sustainable approach to fund fair social care for all’.

On the workforce, he said: ‘I want more people working in social care to feel able and supported to grow and develop their careers and step up into those senior roles that are crucial to providing leadership and determining the quality of care received by our loved ones.

‘And I want to expand the apprenticeships in both health and social care that in a previous ministerial job I introduced. Everyone should have a ladder they can climb and a career they can develop.’

The cabinet minister said prevention, like technology, was ‘mission critical’ to making the system sustainable and that integration of the NHS, social care and wider services in local government was vital.

Responding to the speech, George McNamara, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Independent Age, said: ‘One of the first tests will be the forthcoming social care green paper and seeing an explicit focus on prevention matched by sufficient resources is the potential to enable older people to live in the own homes longer and reduce pressures on an already stretched NHS.

‘Immediate action is also necessary to reduce the growing waiting times and increasing challenges older people face accessing the NHS.’