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One particular approach that Whately emphasised is the establishment of proactive, community-based, multidisciplinary, anticipatory care. Isabel INFANTES/AFP News

In a compelling speech at the NHS Confederation's 'Health Beyond the Hospital' conference, Minister of State Helen Whately, despite nursing a broken ankle, delivered a message that resonated deeply with healthcare professionals and stakeholders across the United Kingdom.

The event, which saw the convergence of prominent figures in the healthcare sector, served as a platform for Minister Whately to emphasise the importance of moving healthcare beyond the confines of traditional hospital settings and towards a more holistic approach.

Minister Whately, responsible for overseeing the nation's healthcare system, acknowledged the pressing need to address the challenges posed by an ageing population and the increasing prevalence of multiple health conditions among citizens.

She pointed out that over half of individuals over the age of 55 have at least one long-term condition, a figure that surges to 80 per cent among those aged over 80. Furthermore, as the population continues to age, the number of people over the age of 85 will double in the next few decades, and more than half of this demographic is affected by frailty.

Minister Whately highlighted the necessity for healthcare to adapt to this evolving demographic reality, emphasising the need for a more patient-centric approach. She expressed her mother's reluctance to seek hospital care, a sentiment shared by many who prefer to receive healthcare in the comfort of their homes.

To meet this demand, Minister Whately advocated for healthcare that offers individuals control over their care, avoiding repetitive hospital visits.

Addressing the strain on emergency departments, the minister acknowledged the admirable efforts of these facilities but also stressed the challenges they face when dealing with frail individuals with complex care needs. Hospitalisation, once initiated, can make it more difficult for such patients to return home seamlessly.

In an encouraging twist, Minister Whately pointed out that what people want aligns with what could ease the pressure on overburdened acute hospitals. She emphasised that there is no single solution to the challenges facing healthcare, but rather a cluster of approaches that can make a significant difference.

The minister highlighted various initiatives already in progress, such as consistent urgent community response services, virtual wards and the Enhanced Health in Care Homes model. Furthermore, she drew attention to the newly published Intermediate Care Framework, which aims to ensure sufficient step-down care to meet patient needs, especially during the demanding winter months.

However, Minister Whately's focus remained on the promotion of proactive, community-based, multidisciplinary, anticipatory care as the next significant step in healthcare transformation.

She cited the Jean Bishop Integrated Care Centre in Hull as a sterling example of integrated care in action. The centre, staffed by a diverse team of healthcare professionals, provides tailored care plans for individuals at risk of severe frailty, empowering them to manage their own care and stay healthy.

The success stories from Hull's integrated care model were not isolated incidents. Minister Whately shared examples from Northamptonshire and Kent, emphasising the positive outcomes achieved through proactive, community-based healthcare initiatives.

Looking ahead, Minister Whately highlighted the Proactive Care Framework, which is currently under development by NHS England in collaboration with organisations like Age UK and the British Geriatrics Society. This framework will outline the components of effective proactive care, including data utilisation, holistic assessments, personalised care, multidisciplinary collaboration, coordinated care and targeted support for patients and their caregivers.

While advocating for these changes, Minister Whately recognised that making them a reality required more than just ministerial directives. She stressed the importance of garnering support from within the NHS and the healthcare community at large. She called upon the audience, composed largely of healthcare professionals and stakeholders, to actively participate in bringing about this transformative change.

In closing, Minister Whately asserted that the future of healthcare must focus on the individual at the centre of the system, with hospitals, community health services, mental health services and social care providers all playing vital roles.

The emphasis on healthcare beyond the hospital is not merely a vision but a necessity to ensure the well-being of a rapidly ageing population and to create a healthcare system that truly puts patients first.