Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Thursday, 18 February 2010

Burnham stresses need for more NHS care at home

Health Secretary Andy Burnham
Mr Burnham said more treatments must be offered outside hospitals

There must be a "decisive shift" in the NHS to provide more care in people's homes, the health secretary has said.

Andy Burnham said the health service must be more "confident" in being able to offer services, such as kidney dialysis, outside hospitals.

This could improve patient experiences as well as save billions, he added.

The Tories have pledged to put patients in the "driving seat", with people able to receive treatment for more minor ailments in their local communities.

'Patient convenience'

The Lib Dems say high-street pharmacists and the voluntary sector should play a role in supporting patients with long-term conditions and those with one-off medical queries or issues.

In a speech, Mr Burnham said: "The time has come for the NHS to make a decisive shift in providing more care out of hospitals and in the patient's community and home."

Integrating health services into the local community could save the NHS £2.7bn a year, he argued.

Last month, Gordon Brown unveiled plans to offer cancer sufferers free home care from specialist nurses, including access to chemotherapy.

What we know now is that we can safely do far more in the patient's home
Health Secretary Andy Burnham

And on Thursday, Mr Burnham told the BBC he wanted "to make the convenience of the patient the most important thing".

"It's about a personal NHS, a patient-centred NHS. For the individual, it's about bringing the services to them rather than vice versa," he said.

"Perhaps, in the past, the NHS has been a bit too much of a 'take it or leave it, like it or lump it' service.

"What we know now is that we can safely do far more in the patient's home, and at a local level, than we could before."

Taking the example of dialysis, he said it could have "a massive effect" on a patient's quality of life to be treated at home.

"It really can give them control back of their life, to balance work with treating their condition."

'Knock-about'

The health secretary restated Labour aims to provide more social care for the elderly at home and said he hoped a cross-party consensus could be reached.

He has called a conference on the issue on Friday, but the Conservatives have refused to attend unless Labour drops proposals for a "death tax".

A government Green Paper published last year suggested that one option for funding long-term care in England could be a compulsory levy of up to £20,000 which could be imposed after an individual's death.

"These issues are too important to be the stuff of normal knock-about," Mr Burnham said. "I think we do need to work across the political divide to find a sustainable solution for the long-term."

He also confirmed the government's intention to outline proposals on giving patients the right to die at home in future.



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