New NHS era: promising or over-promising?

new nhs era, nhs long term plan
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CE of NHS Confederation comments on £20.5 billion annual investment into new NHS era, hailed by PM as historic moment

The NHS Long Term Plan being launched by NHS England, with the government’s investment of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023/24, intends to transform patient care. Theresa May addressed the significant “beloved” nature of the NHS service and asserted the transformative intent of this investment:

“This will help relieve pressure on the NHS while providing the basis to transform care with world-class treatments. Backed by our record investment of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023/24, this shows what we can achieve with a strong economy and a focus on people’s priorities.”

Responding to NHS England’s announcement of the Long-term Plan, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:

“This plan heralds an end of austerity for the NHS and as such marks the dawn of a new era – one in which we will need to transform the way services are delivered to patients and the public.”

“The plan looks set to promise a host of improvements, including in areas such as maternity care, children’s services, cancer care, mental health and heart disease. It will also signal significantly more investment in community care, much greater use of digital technology and more emphasis on prevention.”

“We very much welcome the increased funding for the NHS and the vision to strengthen and improve services. But the plan cannot escape the harsh reality that the NHS will still face tough decisions on what it can and cannot do. Our plea is that politicians be honest about the trade offs that will be required and that we are realistic about what can be achieved given the ever increasing demands of an ageing population.”

“The next few years will be about balancing the need to keep the NHS going, overcoming the large deficits in many hospitals and other NHS organisations, delivering some improvements, and preparing for new ways of delivering care that will make the NHS sustainable.”

“We now need to see the detail of the plan. Plans are fine but the challenge is how they are implemented and we will be watching closely to see whether this plan meets three key tests of it set by our members who are leading front-line services: is it deliverable and affordable; does it enable care to shift out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes; and does it give local leaders the freedom they need to shape and develop the health services required in their area?”

“This is not about miracles – money will be tight and staffing will remain a headache for years to come.”

Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, welcomed the funding but echoed the worries of Niall Dickson:

“The Long Term Plan represents vital progress towards parity of esteem for mental health services and has come through genuine and meaningful engagement with the sector.”

“The £2.3bn ringfenced local investment fund for mental health will help alleviate the severe pressures on the system as well as improve and increase access to mental health services.”

“But there are challenges to achieving this bright vision. The mental health sector has been stung particularly hard by the workforce shortages, with 20,000 vacancies. It is vital we have the right staff in the right places to provide care, and they need the right facilities to do so. We look forward to the publication of the NHS workforce implementation plan and the capital settlement as part of the comprehensive spending review.”

Paul Edwards, Director of Clinical Services at Dementia UK, evaluated the working potential of the Long Term Plan for those suffering in the present moment:

“The long-awaited adult social care Green Paper also represents the missing puzzle piece in this area. It is all well and good to focus on preventing conditions like dementia but we need to give due regard to people who are facing health challenges in the here and now. This is where social care comes in to help people through community support and timely help in the home. Allowing more access to funding for social care will undoubtedly help to relieve the pressures on a struggling NHS, ultimately leading to a more joined-up health and social care landscape. This is what we’re committed to doing at Dementia UK”.

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