Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced new plans to help save 30,000 lives this decade by fighting against the five big causes of premature death.

The 'mortality call to action’, as the UK Government is deeming it, outlines Hunt’s ambition to cut avoidable deaths from the five major causes – cancer, heart, stroke respiratory and liver disease – and to make England among the best in Europe.

This comes as new research in The Lancet reveals that the UK is lagging behind progress by similar countries on many indicators for ill-health.

With these five conditions currently killing more than 150,000 people under 75 every year, and with cardiovascular disease (CVD) representing about 30% of all deaths in 2011, taking action on these five big killers will have a major impact in saving more lives, according to the government.

Hunt has also published a cardiovascular disease outcomes strategy, which will support the NHS and local authorities in delivering improved outcomes for those with or at risk of CVD. 

He said: “Despite real progress in cutting deaths we remain a poor relative to our global cousins on many measures of health, something I want to change.

“For too long we have been lagging behind and I want the reformed health system to take up this challenge and turn this shocking under-performance around. [These] proposals for those with cardiovascular diseases will bring better care, longer and healthier lives and better patient experience – which we must all strive to deliver.”

The CVD strategy builds on existing work and guidance and sets out ten key actions, including:

•    Promoting NHS Health Checks to improve prevention and management of those at risk of CVD by targeting advice and support to areas where their use is patchy.

•    Getting all parts of the country to meet the performance levels of the best – for example, if all patients suffering from a transient ischaemic attack (or mini stroke) were treated as rapidly as those treated in the top 25% of hospitals, 540 strokes would be avoided each year, saving £4.5m per year.

•    Better detection and management of CVD risk factors such as atrial fibrillation (a condition which puts people at higher risk of stroke) which could save 2,100 lives

The latter could be good news for the manufacturers of the new oral blood thinners – Boehringer’s Pradaxa, Janssen and Bayer’s Xarelto and Pfizer/BMS’ Eliquis – all of which are now NICE recommended for stroke prevention of patients with AF.

It is estimated that implementing NHS Health Checks across the whole country alone would detect more than 20,000 cases of diabetes and kidney disease alone – all of which contribute to further cardiovascular diseases.

But not all agree; responding to the measure on Twitter, a GP under the Twitter handle Dr John Grumble said: “The people I see dying in the middle of life are mostly smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, and the homeless. Screening is an insane solution.”