Better Health for London: One Year On

A year ago, Lord Darzi published the visionary Better Health for London report which along with the NHS’ Five Year Forward View set out aspirations for improving the health of Londoners and making the capital the healthiest city in the world.

Now, one year on, the London Health Board- made up of NHS England (London), the capital’s 32 clinical commissioning groups, Public Health England (London) and Mayor Boris Johnson – has published a new report setting out the extent of the progress made over the past 12 months.

While our focus for the year ahead is how to go further, faster and be bolder in improving health and care services for Londoners I want to take this opportunity to reflect on what the London Health Board has achieved so far in the capital- something that we can often forget to do.

During the London Health Board’s one year on event this week both the Mayor and Simon Stevens broached the subject of trialling a sugar tax in London to help tackle obesity both in adults and children. I know I won’t be alone in watching this debate develop with interest in the coming weeks but it’s important to note that over the last year some important work has already happened to tackle the problem of obesity.

The capital has the highest levels of childhood obesity in the UK which is why we have placed such a focus on addressing it through both Lord Darzi’s report and the work of the London Health Board over the last year. The good news is that work is already happening in East London to challenge fast food outlets opening near schools with similar plans underway in many other areas while two thirds of schools are now part of the Mayor’s Healthy Schools in London programme which supports the provision of healthy meals, anti-bullying programmes and walking and cycling to school.

Other interesting projects that deserve celebration include the London Digital Mental Wellbeing project – a world first – which has been commissioned to enable people to self-assess and manage their own mental wellbeing via advice, online support and virtual communities.

This taps into a wider theme of encouraging Londoners to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and to acknowledge that they play a huge role in being able to prevent the onset of some long term conditions like type two diabetes through diet and exercise.

One of the ten aims of the London Health Commission was to ensure that every Londoner is able to see a GP at a time that suits them. The transformation of general practice in London has already begun with access to many GP teams from 8am-8pm now the norm. Funding to modernise GP premises has received around 200 bids from practices across the capital and the national £100 million Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund has also hugely increased investment in primary care in 2015/16.

Work is underway with London’s premier professional football clubs to encourage men aged over 35 years to become more active. In Camden, ‘Give it a go’ offers free gym membership to residents identified as inactive through an NHS Health Check or the Outreach Service, with emphasis on the most deprived areas of the borough. It’s exactly this type of work which can make a huge difference to the health and wellbeing of people across the capital and I’m confident that in a years’ time there will be evidence to show how effective these schemes have been.

While it’s clear that more needs to be done and that different parts of London have challenges that need different approaches what has really struck me over the last year is how determined everyone involved with the London Health Board is to build on the success to date so that progress is accelerated in the coming months.

I want to thank everyone involved for their efforts so far and look forward to continuing to contribute towards the transformation of London into the world’s healthiest city over the year ahead and beyond.

Image of Anne Rainsberry, NHS England, Regional Director for LondonDr Anne Rainsberry is the NHS England, Regional Director for London. She leads the region in its work to improve health across the capital, ensuring high quality care for every Londoner and working to make London the healthiest global city in the world. She oversees £16bn health spend across the capital. Anne joined NHS England from NHS London where she was Deputy Chief Executive and an executive member of the Board for 6 years. Anne has worked in the NHS for 30 years.

During this time she has undertaken senior leadership roles at local, regional and national levels. Anne has operated at Board level since 1995. She joined the Department of Health in 2001 as Director of Development for the South East Regional Office and then moving to lead this agenda across the South of England. From 2004 she worked at a national level becoming a member of the Department of Health’s management Board leading on the delivery of the Department wide change programme.

In 2006 Anne returned to the NHS to take up a Board level role with NHS London. In 2010 she was appointed PCT Cluster Chief Executive for 8 PCTs in North West London covering a population of over 2m where she led one of the largest service reconfigurations across the NHS, redesigning models of care across hospital and out of hospital settings. Anne is a member of the London Health Board chaired by the Mayor of London. She was a member of the London Health Commission set up by the Mayor in 2013 to consider the transformation of London’s health and care system and supported Lord Ara Darzi in his review. Anne lives in London with her husband who is a Barrister.