Ladies and gentlemen, I am so pleased to have been able to make it to Okehampton Community Hospital. I have been impressed by the environment which you have created – I have long been an admirer of Japanese Gardens since a visit to Japan in 1970 and can appreciate the beauty and the effect such gardens have on health and well-being.
From what I have seen today, I believe you have managed very successfully to draw together several key strands of healthcare to provide an integrated approach, something I have believed in for the last twenty years. It is about seeking to find a more balanced way of looking at the whole person and their health.
What you have been able to do here, incorporating a modern NHS community hospital, with a local GP medical practice, and complementary medicine in a landscaped designed setting to facilitate and enhance recovery and well-being, is I think, a wonderful example of what can be done and I hope that can be picked up and used by others elsewhere in the country as an inspiration.
It does seem to be that it is so important to combine the best of the ancient with the best of the modern. And the wonderful thing is that we now know that over half the country's GPs now refer to complementary practices or provide such treatment themselves, which is, I think, enormously encouraging.
And we also know that Government, the Department of Health and the National Health Service are gradually devoting more time, resources and research towards developing better evidence bases, more effective regulation and greater patient choice – all in support of integrated health. And incidentally my Foundation for Integrated Health has been working very hard for the last 10 years on this whole issue of more effective regulation. So as I say, your hospital here is a remarkable example of how integration can be achieved.
Apart from anything else, the case for integrated health is gradually finding firmer ground. People realize increasingly that in the complex world of the twenty-first century, no single therapeutic strategy, and no one approach to knowledge, can have a monopoly on effective diagnosis and treatment for all conditions – scientific, psychosocial, nutritional, environmental and spiritual insights all do have a role in maintaining and restoring health and wellbeing. This is the essence of a ‘holistic' approach and yet 20 years ago all hell broke loose when I suggested this to the British Medical Association!
So, with the additional benefit of delivering potentially huge cost-savings to the NHS, an integrated approach – including if I might add the integration of services, such as you have done here with the joint appointment of a locality manager shared between the NHS and Social Services – offers intelligent, sustainable and appropriate choices.
The whole community here has been tremendously supportive of the new hospital, realized through a shared vision, and I think you can be proud of what you have achieved and it could not give me greater pleasure than to unveil this plaque to mark my visit.