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NHS leaders call for "hard-hitting" action on obesity

More must be done to tackle the "root causes of ill health" leaders of the health service in England have claimed. 

Hard-hitting action on obesity, alcohol and other major health risks is called for in a  five-year forward view published by NHS England. 

The document, worked on by NHS England, Public Health England and other leading bodies, sets out why the NHS needs to change, and how care can be transformed for patients. 

NHS England believe the future health of "millions of children", the sustainability of the NHS and the economic prosperity of Britain rest on a upgrade in prevention and public health. 

The boundaries between health, social care and mental health should be broken down, the report claims. 

It concludes that although a better future is in view for the NHS, action will be needed on three fronts - demand, efficiency and funding. More action on any one of the three will reduce the pressures on the other two. 

It shows how delivering on the transformational changes set out in the forward view, combined with staged funding increases as the economy allows could feasibly close the £30 billion gap by 2020/21, and secure a far better health service for England.

Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dr Peter Carter said that the assessment of the scale of the challenge facing the NHS is "rigorous and realistic" and that big changes are needed to close the health and quality care gap. 

He added that the changes would not be possible without the "hearts and minds" of staff. 

He said: "The reality is that over the years they have seen policy initiative after policy initiative come and go whilst they have cared for record numbers of patients through the most disruptive reorganisation in the health service's history and in the face of huge workforce cuts and pay freezes.

“Nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants will understand the analysis of the problem but will be sceptical, if not a little cynical, that without a clear commitment to more funding, they'll just be facing more of the same.

“The NHS bodies have set out the direction of travel but they can't do this by themselves. They will need the support of an engaged and motivated staff, organisations like the RCN and a firm commitment on the necessary finances. The next government must listen and act.”

The NHS Forward View has been produced by NHS England, Public Heath England, Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Care Quality Commission and Health Education England, advised by patient groups, clinicians and independent experts.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said: "Healthcare in this country has improved dramatically over recent years and has weathered recent financial storms with remarkable resilience, thanks to protected funding and the commitment and dedication of NHS staff.

"But the NHS is now at a crossroads - as a country we need to decide which way to go. The Forward View represents the shared view of the national leadership of the NHS, setting out the choices - and consequences - that we will face over the next five years."