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Invest in activity to ensure NHS is fit-for-purpose, urges ukactive chief

By Jak Phillips    26 Nov 2015
Steven Ward said the ‘acceptance of short termism’ in planning for the nation’s health would inevitably lead to higher costs further down the line

The NHS must make use of its funding lifeline in George Osborne’s Spending Review to invest in physical activity initiatives that will help safeguard its future, according to ukactive executive director Steven Ward.

Overburdened by obesity and inactivity-related illnesses, the NHS is currently stretched to its limits. Yesterday, the chancellor announced that the budget for the NHS in England will rise from £101.3bn this year to £119.9bn in 2020-21 – tantamount to a £3.8bn funding boost. Despite this, Osborne reiterated that the NHS needs to make £22bn of efficiency savings by 2020-21 as part of the government’s austerity measures to tackle the UK’s budget deficit.

Reflecting the widely-held view that the NHS must change the way care is delivered across the service to safeguard its future, Ward said that exercise could be the silver bullet to solve the health services woes, helping it to shift to a model of prevention over cure.

“The extra income pledged for the NHS will not make a dent in the health of the nation unless prevention, and physical activity, is at its heart,” said Ward.

“We understand that in a time of limited funding, government focus and resource must go on areas that can have the greatest return on investment. Physical activity has been described as the ‘miracle cure’, able to treat, manage and prevent over 20 non-communicable diseases and conditions; sensible, targeted investment into getting more people moving – with the backing of the sector – will have the greatest impact on the health of the nation.”

Ward’s message to ‘invest in the future’ and avoid short-termism follows the publication earlier this month of ukactive’s Blueprint for an Active Britain, which said physical activity should be embedded into every aspect of society. The report said that physical activity referrals and sessions should be available in Britain’s GP surgeries, workplaces, job centres and care homes if the UK is to turn the tide on its physical inactivity pandemic, with ukactive chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson calling for physical activity to be the ‘core business’ of the NHS.

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