A report published by The King's Fund has found that improvements in life expectancy have “ground to a halt”.
The data shows that there has been “little or no improvement since 1990 in how long people live with illness and disease”, and warns that without “radical change”, progress in improving the nation’s health could stop all together.
The charity stated that the focus needs to move from diagnosing and treating sickness, towards promoting wellbeing and preventing ill health in the first place.
It has issued a call for action at national, regional and local levels. “This should include: ambitious and binding national goals to drive progress; a cross-government strategy for reducing health inequalities; stronger political and system leadership; greater clarity on the roles and accountability of national bodies and local organisations; and increased investment in prevention, public health and spending that supports population health.”
Over the last 100 years the trajectory for life expectancy in the UK was promising due to “improvements in sanitation, medicines and health care, underpinned by economic growth, improved living standards and the establishment of the welfare state.”
However, “an important shift is taking place in the burden of disease, from mortality to morbidity, with people living for many years with chronic conditions, in pain and with mental ill health,” the group warned.
“Much of this is preventable, yet the NHS remains, at heart, a treatment service for people when they become ill, and we lack a comprehensive approach to keeping us well.”
The report comes soon after the Office for National Statistics found that life expectancy at birth in the UK did not improve over the 2015 to 2017 period, remaining at 79.2 years for males and 82.9 years for females.
To tackle contributing factors such as lifestyle choices, the King's Fund has issued suggestions to the government on how to rebalance spending to support population health including: “Restoring public health grants to local authorities to at least 2015/16 levels - an increase of at least £690 million”.