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The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has set out an ambitious vision for the National Health Service as it approaches its landmark 70th anniversary next year.

Speaking at a conference in Manchester this week, he called on health and care leaders to “unleash the game-changing potential of innovation” for patients and taxpayers alike. He also outlined plans to free up funds for the latest world class treatments by slashing hundreds of millions from the nation’s drugs bill and announced that new and cutting edge treatments will be routinely available for the first time.

Innovations highlighted by Mr Stevens included:

  • A revolutionary new treatment for Hepatitis C which is set to save NHS England more than £50 million as well as saving thousands more lives. This new oral treatment has already led to a 10% reduction in deaths and an unprecedented 50% reduction in the number of patients needing liver transplants.
  • New measures to slash up to hundreds of millions from the nation’s annual medicines bill. The NHS is working closely with industry to bring down prices, expand treatment options and make new treatments available rapidly. New ‘biosimilar medicines’ – just as effective but significantly cheaper than their original ‘biological medicine’ versions – are now becoming available. They will give doctors a choice of new treatments for thousands of patients with serious and painful conditions such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Using ‘biosimilars’ could save the NHS up to £300m a year by 2021.
  • A trailblazing new treatment to restore sight using patients’ own teeth. Taking place in several stages, it restores vision to blind patients by using part of the patient’s own tooth root to support an optical cylinder. It is performed on blind patients with damaged corneas, for whom traditional transplants are not suitable.
  • Routine commissioning of the latest technology to help deaf children hear. New investment of £700,000 will make a medical technique called ‘auditory brainstem implants’ more widely available. It can help restore the sensation of hearing to some children born with profound deafness.
  • An expansion of the NHS ‘test-bed programme’, testing the treatments and care models of tomorrow. This multi-partner approach helps practitioners understand which new products and processes can save and transform lives and how this can be achieved at a lower cost than current practice.

Addressing the conference, Mr Stevens (pictured above) said: “The NHS has a proud history of innovation. As our 70th anniversary approaches it is important that we do not just celebrate these often unsung achievements, but also unleash the full potential of innovation in treatment and commissioning to ensure we deliver high quality healthcare for future generations.”

• Developed by the Labour Party as one of its major social reforms following the Second World War, the National Health Service came into force on July 5th, 1948, and will celebrate its 70th anniversary next summer. It’s founding principle was to provide comprehensive healthcare to all UK residents, regardless of wealth or status, which is free at the point of delivery. The NHS would care for people throughout their life, providing healthcare “from cradle to grave”.

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