Martin Tod, Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum, commented:
There’s a lot to welcome in the NHS Long-Term plan, although still opportunities to strengthen it further by taking into account the particular challenges of men’s health.
We’re pleased to see the role of dads strongly recognised – with a commitment to including dads in perinatal mental health assessments and plans to support the partners of expectant mothers to stop smoking.
It’s also good to see the plans to introduce HPV vaccination for boys explicitly referenced, although we remain keen to see a catch-up programme implemented.
We’re also very positive about the recognition that FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) can improve men’s participation in bowel cancer screening – and would welcome its faster roll-out.
It was encouraging also to see a gendered analysis of issues such as life expectancy, the proportion of life in good health, cancer mortality rates, suicide rates and, most usefully, the life expectancy inequality gap for men between the most and least deprived parts of England.
Many of the other priorities – cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, suicide prevention – as well as a stronger focus on preventing the problems caused by alcohol and smoking – also have the potential to make a major difference to men’s health – since they are disproportionately common amongst men.
The focus on employment and health is also very welcome – since men are much more likely to be in full-time work – and often prioritise work ahead of their health. The impact of unemployment can be particularly devastating for men’s health and wellbeing.
And the focus on person-centred care can only be good – since this increases the likelihood that different men’s particular needs will be met.
There are gaps though.
The prevention agenda will be more effective if it explicitly identifies that preventative programmes often need to be designed differently for men and women if they are to be most effective – and that some conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease are particularly common amongst men. The plan shows a range of useful gendered data, but does less to reflect the implications of that gendered data in its planning.
The plan also needs to recognise that some programmes – such as the NHS Health Check and the National Diabetes Prevention Programme have underperformed in reaching men.
The plan would also benefit from recognising that some of the groups the plan aims to target – such as rough sleepers and people in contact with the criminal justice system – are overwhelmingly men.
And, like many, we welcome the plan’s ambitions for prevention and care, but are concerned that they will be hard to achieve if the Government does not provide adequate funding to public health and adult social care.