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Physical activity could prevent 100k premature deaths a year

The UK Government needs to adopt a national health strategy based on prevention if it wants to successfully tackle a cardiovascular disease emergency that has resulted in almost 100,000 excess deaths since the start of 2020.

Analysis of official government data, by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), suggests that more than 500 people a week are dying needlessly from heart disease, heart attacks or strokes.

The figures were published in the same week as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, outlined his 15-year plan to ‘build the health workforce of the future".

Sunak said his "NHS Long Term Workforce Plan" would be the “biggest workforce training expansion” in the history of the health service.

"The plan will ensure we train, retain, reform and make the most of our talented and experienced staff," Sunak said.

“It will be a 15-year plan to give the NHS certainty because we recognise it takes time to train these staff, who are among the most highly skilled in our society."

Sunak's plan and its ability to tackle the health crisis, however, has received mixed reviews from health and exercise professionals.

Professor Sir Muir Gray, former chief knowledge officer to the NHS – and director of The GHS – questioned why the Prime Minister never mentioned prevention in his plan, which would "quickly and significantly reduce the need for health and social care".

Sir Muir said: “More of the same is not enough. We need a new paradigm with two key features.

"The first of these key features should be a focus on living longer better, not just preventing death from single diseases instead increasing healthy life expectancy, compressing the period of dependency and reducing the need for health and social care. This could start before next winter.

“Secondly we need to make it clear that self-care is the most important type of healthcare for prevention and for the optimal management of long-term conditions.

"These objectives need to be achieved by the development of a digital therapeutic community for people in their 60s and beyond of course about 20 per cent are not yet online, but if those who are online are enabled to take action then the NHS can concentrate on those who are not and who usually are also affected by many other factors notably deprivation.”

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, described the excess deaths as worrying and urged the government to work with the physical activity industry to form a new strategy based on prevention.

“The rise in excess deaths from cardiovascular disease is deeply concerning and a wake-up call for the Government about the urgent need for a strategic shift to prevention," Edwards said.

“The NHS is unable to fully service the demands being asked of it now and this will continue to worsen unless there is change.

"It’s imperative that there is a collective effort to protect this vital institution for current and future generations. The challenge we face is immense but can be overcome it with the necessary will.

"The Government must work with us to leverage the full potential of the physical activity sector, looking at ways to further integrate the sector with the NHS and supporting us to deliver positive health outcomes for the nation by growing our facilities, services, and programmes. The sector stands ready to play its vital role in an effective and robust preventative strategy for the nation.”


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