In 1948, when the National Health Service was born, its structures were designed to provide reliable and comprehensive medical treatment for everyone, dealing with health emergencies and one-off illness. Its remit was to deliver sound, adequate health care.
Sixty years on, in 2008, the report of Lord Darzi's NHS review, High-Quality Care for All, spoke of driving the NHS towards completely reinventing itself. In this vision, decisions are made to improve quality, rather than minimise cost. It foresees models of patient-centred care that engage individuals in the long-term management of their own health, with clinicians on hand to advise, guide and support their choices.
The impact of these changes is expected to be profound, with patients and families diagnosing, monitoring and treating their own conditions, resulting in changes to the usual relationship between health professional and patient, and to the organisational structures of the NHS. It will be hugely different from the NHS of six decades ago, and it will be possible only if we develop new ways of working, new attitudes, new treatments - if we embrace innovation.
This is part of a series of debates sponsored jointly by the New Statesman and Pfizer.
Health care is a principle of enormous importance to a healthy society, and providing health care to all, free at the point of delivery, is enshrined in our National Health Service. A continuing desire to uphold that principle is something that is close to the heart of the nation.
By the end of this decade, NHS spending is expected to approach 10 per cent of UK GDP (0.3 per cent of world GDP, over £100bn, or over £4,500 per household). Public finances are so weakened that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is warning that NHS reform must be a priority for any new government.
The New Statesman and Pfizer Policy Forum round table provides a platform for constructive debate on this issue, with participants looking at the shared challenges facing the UK and US health systems and their areas of relative strength or weakness.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King's Fund, sets the scene for the debate by assessing the challenges currently facing the NHS.
Over the past 15 years, advances in technology have meant that more information has been available more widely to many more people than ever before. In terms of our own health, this availability of information has made it possible for patients to find out a vast amount of information on all types of conditions and their diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
Our appetite for this information stems from our desire to have control over our bodies and our lives and the fear that we experience, particularly when we are given a diagnosis that has serious implications for our health.
This and the other reports in the long running series of New Statesman and Pfizer joint-sponsored round table discussions are available at: www.policyforum.co.uk
Sixty years ago, few could have predicted that the National Health Service would look as it does now. Indeed, its founders even predicted falling demand for its services, as major infections were brought under control.
Predicting what the NHS will start to look like over the next 60 years may be even more difficult as the pace of change will be furious and could lead us in directions that we have not even countenanced.
This supplement, sponsored jointly by the New Statesman and Pfizer, invited participants to offer their own expectations for the future direction of health services.
What those who have participated in this project seem to agree on is that technology will have a radical effect on the landscape, that patients will be at the centre of their own healthcare and that services will be delivered more locally, even in patients' own homes.