I am delighted to be here today to talk on the vital topic of universal health care.
Universal healthcare has been at the heart of the National Health Service in the United Kingdom for over 60 years. And it will remain so. Universal access to a comprehensive health service - free, based on need, is part of our social solidarity and an essential basis for improving the population’s health.
When we came into government two years ago we made two very clear commitments. Firstly that we would increase the budget of our National Health Service in real terms, and secondly that we would increase our spending on development to meet our historic 0.7% commitment. I am proud of our performance on both of those commitments.
Across the Globe, each year, tens of millions of poor people fall ill and die due to diseases and conditions that are preventable and treatable. Out-of-pocket costs stop many of these people getting the help they need. The solution is efficient and effective healthcare that does not exclude or impoverish the poor. Governments have a duty to manage this.
In July, the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with the United Nations Population Fund, and others, will host an international family planning summit in London. The aim is to launch a global movement to give 120 million extra women in the world’s poorest countries access to contraceptive information, services and supplies by 2020. I am sure many of your governments will wish to participate. And I am extremely pleased that our Director General will be playing a key role in the event.
Back home our investment in the National Health Service is strengthening our universal primary care infrastructure. We are focused on developing preventative services, on early interventions and minimising unnecessary hospitalisation. We are reforming the National Health Service to empower clinical leaders to deliver outcomes for patients which are amongst the best in the world. We are giving more autonomy to healthcare providers; but we are making them increasingly accountable for the results they achieve.
We are reforming our public health system, to ensure we are able to tackle the social determinants of health. Nationally and locally, improving the health of the population is a government-wide responsibility. We are recognising and acting on the effects which employment, education, housing and the environment have on health outcomes.
Our approach to tackling public health issues, is to maximise our impact at key moments in people’s lives, for example through support in maternity and the early years of children. We are also focused on the major risk factors such as obesity, tobacco, drugs, alcohol and sexual health. We will be strong and effective in tobacco control. With food, drink and retail industries we are forming a partnership, based on a shared understanding that public health is everyone’s business and that by co-operation we can achieve more progress, more quickly, towards an environment which enables consumers to lead a healthier lifestyle.
We have a busy week ahead of us. Our agenda here underlines the importance of the WHO being the best it can be. We need the WHO to facilitate the sharing of ideas and strategies for member states to build strong universal healthcare systems. We need continued action to tackle emerging and continuing public health threats. When these things happen, we must be ready to act collectively.
The reform of WHO, supporting these objectives, will enable us to make more progress in improving the health of all our peoples. A strong WHO, ready to face these challenges in the 21st Century is vital. It is in all our interests to ensure the reforms of WHO are advanced this week.