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Last Updated: Monday, 7 January 2008, 16:20 GMT
Health screening plans unveiled
Gordon Brown
Mr Brown wants a more personal and preventative health service

Patients in England will be offered screening for early signs of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said.

He said he wanted a more "personalised" NHS with a bigger focus on prevention.

Doctors' representatives accused the PM of "inconsistency" because of recent cuts to funding for such conditions.

The plan comes as Mr Brown seeks to regain the political initiative and counter David Cameron's bid to claim the Tories are the party of the NHS.

In a speech in London Mr Brown outlined plans for more diagnostic tests in GP surgeries, such as blood tests, electro-cardiograms and ultrasounds to cut waiting times.

It remains one of the most trusted organisations in British society, its doctors, nurses and staff recognised by everyone as a force for good in our country.
Gordon Brown

Mr Brown said: "There are 200,000 deaths a year from heart and stroke disease.

"Many of them, indeed probably most of them, avoidable if we did the right things."

He said screening for those was "only the start" with extended screening for breast cancer for women, preventative vaccines against cervical cancer and "far more" being done in relation to aneurysms.

"The whole nature of this is that the health service has really got to change in its next 60 years from being the curative service - where it's done so much good - to being also a preventative service and one that's not simply a uniform service, but personal to people's needs," said Mr Brown.

"So you get to see the doctor you want at the time you want and the hospital you want, but also a health service organised around your needs and at the same time, of course, the preventative work."

Take up

Initially the tests will be available to the most "vulnerable", and money has been set aside to pay for the procedures in the health budget for 2008-11, said Mr Brown.

No-one can argue against a greater focus on prevention but this smacks of tinkering
Nick Clegg
Lib Dem leader

He said the government planned to use advertising to "persuade people" to take the tests.

In his speech, Mr Brown said: "The next stage is offering men over 65 a simple ultrasound test to detect early abdominal aortic aneurysm... the weakening of the main artery from heart to abdomen which kills over 3,000 men a year - and this will eventually save more than 1,600 lives each year."

He said Health Secretary Alan Johnson would set up plans to introduce a series of tests to identify vulnerability to heart and circulation problems.

Vascular screening, to be introduced this year or early in 2009, would include a series of blood, fat and sugar tests in GP surgeries.


The prime minister said "renewal" of the NHS would be the government's highest priority, adding that the aim was "deeper and wider reform" to create an NHS "that is here for all of us but personal to each of us".

And he said patients could be given taxpayers' money to choose their own health care, by committing himself to the principle of "personal health budgets".

Government officials said it was initially only likely to cover patients suffering from long-term conditions - to allow them to choose the right treatment for them.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GPs committee at the British Medical Association, said: "What I do find extraordinary is just two or three weeks ago the prime minister insisted that funding be taken away from the treatment of patients with heart failure, hardening of the arteries and kidney disease - the very conditions that he's now proposing to screen for."

And for the Conservatives, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley accused Mr Brown of "chasing headlines".

What a superb idea. How are we going to pay for it when our taxes are being diverted to fight an illegal war and prop up a bank, whilst a reduction in NHS funding is taking place?
Tony Barrett

"There is no proper timetable for delivery; we don't know where the money's coming from but we do know that Brown has raided public health budgets," he said.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said evidence was needed that "this is more than just another expensive political gimmick from this government".

"Gordon Brown is ducking the fundamental issue of overall reform of the health service. No-one can argue against a greater focus on prevention but this smacks of tinkering," he said.

Mr Brown's decision to make his first big speech of the year on health follows Conservative leader David Cameron's speech last week in which he set out proposals which he hoped would lead to the Tories becoming the party of the NHS.

The conditions being targeted by the screening plans

In full: Brown speech on the NHS
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