Amongst policy wonks and politicos, 2018 will likely be remembered for one reason and one reason only (and no, it isn’t the brief period in which football looked like it was coming home). Without mentioning the dreaded ‘B’ word, it does feel like 2018 has been dominated by political stagnation, mass media hysteria and absolutely no clarity whatsoever on the UK’s exit from the European Union.
But looking beyond Brexit, 2018 was also a year of big health policy moments. The Department of Health was renamed the Department of Health and Social Care. We were promised a new long term plan for the NHS and a social care green paper, neither of which have materialised. Oh, and the NHS celebrated its 70th Birthday.
All this has kept the Incisive Health team busy, and as the end of the year approaches, we’ve taken a look back at our top health policy moments of 2018, in both the NHS and in Europe.
The NHS celebrates its 70th birthday
The National Health Service turned 70 on 5 July 2018, with a flurry of activity to celebrate the many achievements of the nation’s most-loved institution.
🎁 🍰 🎈 🎉 Happy Birthday from the #NHS to HRH The Prince of Wales #PrinceCharles #NHS70. 🎈 🎈 🎈 This photo shows the Prince at his recent @ClarenceHouse visit. @PrincesTrust @RoyalFamily 🎈 🎈 🎈 pic.twitter.com/F6N78Ew0rw
— NHS England (@NHSEngland) November 14, 2018
To help mark the NHS’s 70th birthday, we teamed up with @NHSat70 and @NHSHistory_ to collect + share the memories + stories of staff and patients. It’s not too late to get involved https://t.co/h4iG0XBZrD #NHS70 pic.twitter.com/wLm7UAeA3m
— Antony Tiernan (@AntonyTiernan) August 8, 2018
This month marks 70 years since the launch of the NHS.
We can thank the NHS for the eradication of life-threatening diseases such as polio and diphtheria, scientific breakthroughs like hand transplants and even the first IVF baby.#NHS70 https://t.co/AfPJKP6mlh pic.twitter.com/dcfh5tMD30
— Historic England (@HistoricEngland) July 16, 2018
— NHS England SW (@NHSEnglandSW) July 5, 2018
The Prime Minister announces a new long-term funding settlement for the NHS
Over the summer, the Prime Minister announced a birthday present funding settlement for the NHS, amounting to a 3.4% real terms increase per year for the NHS England budget. However, with no clarity on funding for public health, medical education or equipment in the Autumn Budget we still have to watch and wait until 2019’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
In June, @10DowningStreet announced the single largest cash commitment to our public services ever made by a peacetime government…
…An £84bn five year deal for our precious NHS…#Budget2018 🚑 👩⚕️👨⚕️ pic.twitter.com/ey05IehSvJ
— HM Treasury (@hmtreasury) October 29, 2018
Jeremy Hunt becomes the longest serving Health Minister
In June, Jeremy Hunt overtook Norman Fowler to become the longest-serving health secretary, with 5 years and 274 days under his belt. He barely had time to celebrate, however, as a mere 35 days later his tenure ended.
And a partridge in a pear tree. Hunt in numbers – read @incisivehealth‘s analysis on the daunting task facing new Health Sec @MattHancock. Welcome to the new job! https://t.co/ZM7fUdCOnN pic.twitter.com/90WOjKybzE
— Rosie Mughal (@RosieMughal) July 10, 2018
ICYMI, it’s @Jeremy_Hunt‘s big day 🎂 I’ve taken a deep dive into the #NHS history books to find out what he might be able to learn from the other 5 longest serving health ministers (short answer, quite a lot) https://t.co/o8P4y4nomh pic.twitter.com/LKOx7VozGY
— Maddy (@madsfarn) June 4, 2018
Matt Hancock becomes Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
With Number 10 desperately needing Jeremy to fill a Boris-shaped hole in the Foreign Office, Matt Hancock MP, the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, stepped into his shoes. It’s probably unsurprising that the first new Health Secretary for nearly six years would make our list.
With a (perhaps misguided) Matt Hancock app launched at the beginning of the year, it was no shock that his health policy priorities would focus on all things digital. But, Matt Hancock set out his focus on technology in the most retro way possible…
Just finalising my first speech as Secretary of State for Health & Social Care – setting out my early priorities tomorrow pic.twitter.com/lQXV1w6l5V
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) July 19, 2018
The first CAR-T therapy for adults becomes available in the NHS
In October, Simon Stevens announced that adult cancer patients in England will receive a new game-changing therapy treatment, under the first negotiated deal of its kind struck in Europe.
The CAR-T therapy – Axicabtagene ciloleucel (also known as Yescarta), works by re-programming the patient’s own immune system to target their cancer, and heralds the start of a new era of personalised medicine in the NHS.
The race to treat UK #patients with #CARTtherapy continues! The NHS has approved the use of #Yescarta by @GileadSciences for adults with #lymphoma, hoping to implement treatment by the end of the year. Read more on the advancements here: https://t.co/N4XHMrSFhF
— Nucleus Biologics (@nucleusbiologic) October 16, 2018
The 100,000 Genome Project hits its target
In 2012, David Cameron (remember him?) announced an ambitious new project to sequence the genomes of NHS patients living with rare diseases and cancer. Fast forward to this year, and Genomics England announced in December that the project had hit its milestone target, cementing the UK’s position as a global leader in genomics. The ambition doesn’t stop there: the Government has now announced an expansion of the project to sequence 1 million whole genomes within the next 5 years.
Delighted to announce that today we’ve reached our #Genomes100k milestone – we’ve hit 100,000! 🎉 We want to give a very public #100KThankYous to all the individuals and organisations involved as we look ahead to taking #genomic medicine mainstream https://t.co/rB6Rd71ZRh pic.twitter.com/ItTup5hISw
— Genomics England (@GenomicsEngland) December 5, 2018
The fax machine is dead
2018 can be marked as a year where disruptive technologies hit the NHS by force. The Department of Health and Social Care announced it was “banning” the fax machine, an app-based GP service (GP at Hand) was seemingly endorsed by the Health Secretary and the first robotic surgery system in the UK was launched.
If @MattHancock really is saying ““I want to see GP at Hand available to all, not based on their postcode” that’s a pretty astonishing backing of company in a very competitive field https://t.co/Rp6xFGQH0C
— Alastair McLellan (@HSJEditor) September 13, 2018
NEWS: We need the best tech for our NHS – not outdated tech like fax machines.
As part of our tech revolution to bring our NHS into the 21stC we’re banning fax machines in the NHS 📠 🛑 https://t.co/SZAwgd3LhI
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 9, 2018
Special credit must surely go to Julian Patterson, who went one step further:
Fax is the least of our worries. Matt Hancock wants to see NHS tech dragged out of the dark ages. Full story here https://t.co/4WaJqSkuB8
— Julian Patterson (@jtweeterson) December 13, 2018
A year of parliamentary firsts
2018 marked the 100-year anniversary of the Representation of the People act, which first gave women the right to vote. Here at Incisive Health we’re unashamed to be parliamentary nerds. 2018 has delivered some excellent examples of parliamentary firsts, from the Labour Party’s revival of the 19th century humble address to the Government being found in contempt of Parliament for the first time in history.
Govt likely to be defeated again in a minute on whether ministers were in contempt by not publishing the legal advice – Theresa May might lose three votes today before she even gets to her feet later to start making her brexit case
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) December 4, 2018
***ARCANE PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURE ALERT***
Labour will try tomorrow to use a “humble address” to force the Govt to handover all the Brexit files which have been prepared for Theresa May’s Brexit war Cabinet. 🍿 pic.twitter.com/BL44N8MFj1
— Jack Maidment (@jrmaidment) May 15, 2018
“The parliamentary party does have confidence in Theresa May”
Chairman of 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady says PM wins #ConfidenceVote, with 200 out of 317 Conservative MPs supporting her leadership of the partyhttps://t.co/9Vw2gOQoDc pic.twitter.com/7Delcb1vO1
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) December 12, 2018
Go home 2018 British politics, you’re drunk. https://t.co/EEFYhgGuEI
— Kevin Schofield (@PolhomeEditor) December 17, 2018
It’s also worth celebrating another first: Lloyd Russell-Moyle became the first MP to reveal his HIV+ status in the House of Commons
— Labour Whips (@labourwhips) November 29, 2018
No deal Brexit becomes a real possibility
With the Cabinet in chaos, the Prime Minister facing a vote of no confidence and an Opposition still working out what their position on Brexit really is, preparations for no deal have stepped up dramatically in recent weeks.
Kidney Care UK published a hard hitting image demonstrating the complex supply chain of dialysis products, which really brings to life the scale of the issue.
Meanwhile, as the pharmaceutical industry was warned by the Department of Health and Social Care to start stockpiling medicines, Matt Hancock announced he was the “largest buyer of fridges in the world”. Rumours are circulating in Whitehall that the Government has chartered a plane to fly in vital supplies, in the case of a chaotic exit on March 29.
EU election season is just around the corner
With so much happening with Brexit, it’s easy to forget the health policy announcements from further afield. With the European elections just around the corner, our team in Brussels has been busy identifying the 5 hot topics that will drive the EU health agenda in 2019 and beyond.
Today @EU_Commission @EU_Health launched #SoHEU18 – @fscassellati @incisivehealth explored 5 key #health policy challenges for the #EU: 1⃣digital health 2⃣vaccines 3⃣patients first 4⃣innovation & 5⃣tackling health inequality https://t.co/XN9ubFWBgU pic.twitter.com/pKeGH30g1o
— Incisive Health (@incisivehealth) November 22, 2018
Ireland repeals the Eighth
In a historic referendum in May, Ireland voted by a landslide to repeal the 8th amendment to the country’s constitution, allowing the government to legislate for abortion. The vote marked a monumental shift in attitudes towards women’s rights in Ireland.
Thousands of women flew home to Ireland from far flung corners of the world and social media became a force for good – with #Hometovote seeing voters being crowdfunded to make it back to vote in time. If you didn’t follow it at the time, it’s a heart-warming hashtag that’ll likely make you cry.
— HuffPost UK (@HuffPostUK) May 25, 2018
Joint action on vaccines in Europe
Europe’s Health Ministers adopted recommendations to strengthen pan-European cooperation on vaccine preventable diseases. The initiative aims to tackle vaccine hesitancy, improve coordination on vaccine procurement and support research and innovation.The European Commission is reinforcing its support to national vaccination efforts, through the preparation of a Joint Action on vaccination co-funded by the Health Programme worth over €3.55m.
Great news: Today Europe’s Health Ministers adopted recommendations on strengthened cooperation against vaccine preventable diseases, @VytenisAndriukaitis calls for swift implementation by EU member states #VaccinesWork pic.twitter.com/LvyXfTTDf2
— Incisive Health (@incisivehealth) December 7, 2018
Looking to the future
With all the chaos we’ve seen in December, it would be foolish to try to predict what might happen in 2019. That said, we can probably place our chips on a long-term NHS plan, and perhaps a general election and a new Prime Minister too.