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Nearly 10000 lives a year in England are being saved through the greater use of statins, and an estimated 3.4 million people—7% of the population—are taking the drug, the latest data on coronary heart disease show. The figures were published to coincide with Tony Blair's speech at a meeting at the health charity the King's Fund on Monday (BMJ 2007;334:919, doi: 10.1136/bmj.39202.632072.4E).
No patient is waiting more than three months for heart surgery, the report says, and the number of premature deaths from circulatory disease in people aged under 75 has fallen by almost 36% in the past decade, it says.
The report by the national clinical director for heart disease and stroke, Roger Boyle, shows that the NHS is expected to meet the target of a 40% reduction in mortality from circulatory disease—to just over 80 deaths per 100000 people—by 2010, at least two years early.
The government has heralded Professor Boyle's report and three other reports from the health department's national clinical directors, all published this week, as an indicator of the improvements that the Labour government has made in the past 10 years.
“We have improved care across the board by ending the era of uniform, monolithic provision in the NHS [and] putting patients and their needs in the driving seat,” said the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt.
“Thanks to the hard work of staff, high quality care on the NHS is no longer the preserve of the lucky or the well connected but [is] genuinely universal, still free at the point of use, and focused on those who need it most,” she said.
The other three reports cover cancer, emergency care, and mental health.
Mike Richards, national clinical director for cancer, reports that England is on target to reduce cancer mortality by at least 20% by 2010. The overall number of consultants specialising in cancer has increased by 49%, from just over 3000 in 1999 to just under 4750 in 2006, he said.
More than 98% of patients in accident and emergency departments were seen and treated within four hours in 2005-6, reports George Alberti, whereas in early 2003 more than 25% of patients were spending more than four hours in emergency departments.
Meanwhile the mental health director, Louis Appleby, reports that [“spending on mental health services has increased by an average of £1.5bn (€2.2bn; $3bn) a year” OR “annual increases in spending on mental health services have totalled £1.5bn (€2.2bn; $3bn)”] since the national service framework was published in 1999. Since 1997 the number of consultant psychiatrist posts has increased by 55%, to 3800 this year. And the suicide rate is the lowest on record.
The four reports—Emergency Care Ten Years On: Reforming Emergency Care, Coronary Heart Disease Ten Years On: Improving Heart Health, Cancer Ten Years On: Improvement across the Whole Care Pathway, and Mental Health Ten Years On: Progress on Mental Health Care Reform—are available at www.dh.gov.uk.