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Queen’s Speech is light on health promises

Today, the Queen’s Speech set out the Government’s agenda for the next 12 months. The Government has still not provided much-needed detail on how it will deliver transformative care for heart patients.

Ahead of the speech, the BHF called for a targeted cardiac care plan, mandatory measures to encourage salt and sugar reformulation in food, and a ‘polluter pays’ levy on tobacco manufacturers.

These measures are urgently needed if we are to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. If done alongside prioritizing health research and embedding it in the NHS, we will have an excellent foundation from which to improve the nation’s heart health.

Cardiac care recovery plan

Waiting lists for heart patients were too long before the pandemic and now they are increasing month-on-month.

Today’s speech made no fresh commitments to support the recovery of cardiovascular services, or address workforce shortages, despite current measures not going far enough to meet the needs of the hundreds of thousands of patients waiting for heart care.

We need to see action now – delays to cardiac care can cause preventable heart attacks, heart failure and even premature death.

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, our Chief Executive, said: “Despite tackling patient backlogs being a priority in the Queen’s Speech, the Government missed the mark on speeding up and improving care for the 7.6 million people across the UK living with heart and circulatory conditions today.

“Right now, there are over 300,000 people on waiting lists for time-critical heart care and treatments.

“The lack of a clear path to reduce the cardiac backlog is deeply concerning for heart patients and their loved ones. We urgently need a robust recovery plan for cardiac care, and a commitment to growing our NHS workforce who have done so much for so many.” .”

Reduce risk

Improving the nation’s long-term health by addressing key risk factors like obesity and smoking will help prevent illness and reduce deaths from heart disease, as well as helping to relieve pressure on the NHS.

Despite recent notable progress in implementing the Government’s obesity strategy, it was disappointing there were no new public health announcements.

We are also calling for a mandatory measure to incentivize manufacturers to reduce sugar and salt in everyday foods, which would be an important step to creating a healthier environment.

To drive further progress towards the Government’s vision of a Smokefree 2030 (a smoking prevalence of 5 per cent or less), we would like to see Government introduce a ‘polluter pays’ tobacco levy, which could raise an estimated £700 million a year from tobacco manufacturers.

We urge Government to use upcoming policy milestones to address the unhealthy food environment – ​​through the Food White Paper – and obesity and tobacco as drivers of health inequality – in the Health Disparities White Paper.

Data legislation and research

We share Government’s ambition to make the UK a science superpower, and agree that to do so we need the right data environment.

Efficient, safe, and affordable data sharing access between the UK and EU is essential for a thriving UK R&D environment which fuels life-saving breakthroughs for patients.

The new Data Reform Bill proposes to take the UK out of sync with EU data law. As 20 per cent of our research collaborators are EU-based, this could have a profound effect on our research and the charity science sector.

The change to UK data law could result in added complexity and legal fees, which could determine EU research studies from involving UK-based research and, in turn, reduce patients’ access to life-saving research.

This could harm Government’s ambitions, so we urge them to take steps to ensure UK data law does not deviate from EU standards.

Dr Griffiths added: “We cautiously await details about the newly announced Data Reform Bill and steps to create ‘a culture of data protection’.

“Any new legislation must ensure that lifesaving medical research delivered in partnership with EU scientists can continue without any additional complexity or cost.”

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