Health priorities for London set by new board

16 January 2012

An ambitious programme to save more than 1,000 lives in the capital each year by improving the early diagnosis and prevention of cancer, has been agreed by the new London Health Improvement Board (LHIB).

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is leading the newly created LHIB which includes representatives from NHS London and the capital’s 33 local authorities.

It aims to tackle the biggest health problems in the capital - including cancer, childhood obesity and alcohol abuse – by taking a pan-London, strategic view.

Each year 27,000 Londoners are diagnosed with cancer and over a third of all Londoners will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their life.

The new programme will seek to save 1,000 Londoners’ lives each year from 2018, by improving the early diagnosis and prevention of cancer over the next six years. This will be achieved by reducing the number of smokers in the capital by 20 per cent in the next six years; increasing the number of Londoners taking up the offer of bowel cancer screening by 33 per cent over the next three years; and increasing the number of patients seeking an earlier diagnosis for cancer, by 10 per cent over the next three years.

Another key priority which the board has identified for Londoners, is targeting the problem of childhood obesity. It plans to do this through the Healthy Schools London programme. This will educate young people about the benefits of adopting a healthy lifestyle. It will draw on national and international best practice and build on the national health schools programme which was funded until 2009.

An estimated 280,000 Londoners are dependent on alcohol and alcohol misuse costs London £2.5 billion per year. Under the board’s proposals, the Mayor, London Councils and NHS London, will work together to ensure people who abuse alcohol have access to the support they need.

They will also work with the capital’s licensing authorities to ensure alcohol is supplied responsibly. Another agreed proposal is to develop an awards scheme to highlight best practice in town centre management and bars and off-licences which sell alcohol responsibly.

Cllr Colin Barrow, London Councils’ executive member for health and adult services, said: “It is vital that we work together to prevent Londoners developing chronic health problems which are avoidable.

“As local councils take on new responsibilities for developing health we look forward to working with the Mayor and NHS London to improve the lives of Londoners across the capital.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “During a time of economic strain, it is more important than ever that we join forces in this unique partnership to make a real difference in the fight against obesity, particularly in children, problematic use of alcohol and cancers in the capital. I am delighted to see the London Health Improvement Board getting off to a flying start in this first developmental year and that our joint priorities are already being translated into programmes of work.”

Dr Simon Tanner, NHS London Regional Director of Public Health, said: “Health issues in London are both complicated and specific to the city. The capital’s biggest health problems such as obesity, cancer and alcohol abuse are often interrelated and cannot be tackled in isolation, so we want to draw on the diverse skills and experience we have to tackle these areas through the London Health Improvement Board.

“Issues like reducing smoking in the capital and improving the health of children in schools need to be aimed at the whole of London, by both promoting a healthy lifestyle and giving Londoners better information about health and available services to equip them with the tools to look after their own health, and create a lasting health legacy for the capital.”

Notes to editors:

The board has been initially established in shadow form pending the legislation that is required to put it on a statutory footing. The proposal to establish in shadow form a London Health Improvement Board was agreed by the Secretary of State in March 2011. The shadow status does not mean however that the board is inactive and agreed methods of operating are already underway.

The programme has been allocated a budget from April 2012-2013 of up to £2m from the NHS.Subject to parliamentary approval, Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and NHS London, the capital's Strategic Health Authority, will be abolished from April 2013 as part of planned Government reforms to give GPs and local authorities a greater role in commissioning services.