Major Conditions Strategy

There have been mixed reactions across health and care to the government’s decision to scrap plans for individual conditions like dementia and replace them with a combined Major Conditions Strategy (see JDC Newsletter, 2 February).

Last year the government promised 10-year plans for various individual conditions, including dementia, cancer and mental health, but in January health secretary Steve Barclay told the Commons that there would instead be single strategy covering six conditions.

In dementia care, a broad welcome for the fact that dementia has been placed on par with major conditions like cancer and heart disease has been tempered by concerns that the plan for dementia as such will not be sufficiently ambitious or comprehensive.

“We welcome the Major Condition Strategy’s focus on a holistic approach to increasing healthy expectancy and reducing health disparities,” Alzheimer’s Research UK head of policy David Thomas told JDC.  “However, a bold plan for tackling the considerable challenges which are specific to dementia is long overdue. The government must set out how the Major Conditions Strategy will deliver for people with dementia.”

Alzheimer’s Society said it had been assured by the government that the work that had gone into the 10-year plan for dementia would now go towards the new strategy.  “We need a bold, ambitious plan for dementia, and it remains to be seen whether this is the route for that to happen,” Society CEO Kate Lee was quoted as saying.

In other sectors, reactions were more stark. Cancer charities are angry that the strategy marks the cancellation of a promised 10-year plan just for cancer, while mental health charities are similarly angry as a 10 year plan for mental health has also been ditched. Both sectors fear that a combined strategy will water down ambitions for each individual condition.

Barclay told the Commons that the major conditions targeted by the strategy – dementia, cancers, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, mental ill-health and musculoskeletal disorders – accounted for 60% of total healthy life years lost because of illness or disability. He left it unclear when the final strategy will be published but said that an interim report would be published in the summer.