Hunt calls for patients to take responsibility

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt
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The cost to the taxpayer of NHS medicines will be printed on the packet as part of a new drive to encourage patients to reduce waste in the NHS.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced the measure as he called for a a “revolution in personal responsibility” and urged patients to do more to help the health service save money.

But doctors urged caution over his suggestion that patients should use the internet to research their conditions.

Mr Hunt said it was time for a new social contract with the public over health and social care services.

Pointing to figures suggesting missed appointments alone cost the NHS £1 billion a year, he said: “There is no such thing as a free health service, everything we are proud of in the NHS is funded by taxpayers, every penny we waste costs patients more through higher taxes or reduced services.”

Mr Hunt said the NHS was also spending £300 million a year on wasted medicines.

“People who use our services need to know that in the end they pay the price for this waste,” he said.

The Health Secretary unveiled plans to print the costs of medicines on the packet of any drugs costing more than £20. Packaging will also be marked ‘Funded by the UK taxpayer’.

He said patients needed to take more responsibility for their own health as smoking and rising obesity rates were also putting a huge strain on the NHS.

“When it comes to preventing illness or leading healthy lives we are bottom of the pack, ranked tenth out of 11 leading countries.

“That is deeply undesireable in a taxpayer-funded system that relies on a sustainable demand for services,” he said.

Speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Harrogate, Mr Hunt praised patients who do internet research into their conditions.

“This can be challenging for doctors not used to being second guessed but it is to be warmly welcomed.

“The best person to managed a long term condition is the person that has that long term condition.

“The best person to prevent a long term condition developing is not the doctor, it’s you.”

Doncaster GP Dr Dean Eggitt, a member of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said internet research could help people with chronic conditions to be better informed about how to best look after themselves.

He said: “Doctors are all for genuine expert partients who undersand their conditions. We do know in that cohort of patients who know their conditions very well their outcomes will be better.

“But going on to the internet and Googling symptoms can create a great deal of anxiety and use up a lot of NHS resources.”

Speaking at the same conference, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens suggested measures to tackle childhood obseitiy should be part of the move to devolve powers from Whitehall to a new generation of elected mayors.

Mr Stevens said with one in five children leaving primary school obese, the health service was facing a “huge wave” of diabetes and other conditions unless action is taken.

He praised councils which had used their planning powers to limit where takeaway food shops are opened, particularly those that had imposed minimum distances from schools.

“As part of the big national conversation we are going to be having about devolution of more powers for elected local authorities and mayors this has to be in the mix.”