Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England, looks back over 2013-14
This past year NHS England has clearly demonstrated its full commitment to putting patients at the very heart of everything we do.
We have promoted transparency and accountability for our work and our services, and ensured we have spent finite taxpayer resources in the most efficient, fair and inclusive way, and to the benefit of everyone we serve.
Central to that has been our role of commissioning health services. Some we commission directly, such as specialised and primary care services, but we allocate the majority of the resources we receive to clinical commissioning groups, who commission services at a local level so people get the services they and their region need.
Some 211 new clinical commissioning groups have now taken on their full responsibilities, and great progress has been made.
I have been deeply impressed by the refreshing energy, enthusiasm and expertise of the local clinical leaders I have met and their determination – and that of all the NHS staff, from porters, to nurses, doctors and carers – to bring about long overdue improvement to the quality of services we provide across the country.
We have tackled head-on inefficiency and outmoded working practices, all in the interests of ensuring patients get the highest quality care.
And further challenges lie ahead, such as doing more to address parity of esteem and acknowledging that services for those with mental health issues are not always understood, targeted or funded as those with the more standard health issues.
We need to address the pressure on primary care and the unfairness where practices next door to each other and of the same size have been funded differently.
And another challenge is that faced by our cancer services – with a huge increase in cancer referrals from GPs. This is a good thing – with earlier diagnosis saving lives. Cancer death rates in the UK have fallen by around a fifth over the last 30 years and by 10 per cent over the last decade.
We must ensure the testing needed is quickly available to those referred. And here, too, we are making huge strides with the number of patients seen by a specialist within two weeks of an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer having increased by 475,000, or 51 per cent over the past five years.
Without doubt, the NHS is facing one of the most challenging times in its history. We are treating more patients in our hospitals than ever before – with 1.5 million people being referred to treatment every month and, since 2010, our hospitals are now performing 2,000 more operations a day. GPs are under increasing pressure – with one million people seeing their GP every working day. And there has been a big increase in A&E attendances – with the number of attendances having risen by two million over the last ten years to around 16 million a year.
What is all the more remarkable, is that all this has been achieved against the backdrop of unremitting increases in demand for NHS services at a time of acute financial stringency.
But these are the broad brushstrokes and it would be remiss of me not to recap some of the other hugely successful achievements and major advances we have made over the last year. These include:
The Urgent and Emergency Care Review – a blueprint for an overhaul of the emergency care system to help hospital Accident & Emergency departments meet demand and tackle waiting time pressures.
Compassion In Practice – We launched a three-year vision and strategy for nursing, midwifery and care staff called the 6Cs: care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment – the core values and behaviours essential to providing great care.
NHS 111 – Now available in 100 per cent of the country, it directs you to the right local service, first time. Around one million people a month use it with 96 per cent of calls answered in less than 60 seconds
Friends and Family Test (FFT) – The biggest assessment of patient opinion ever conducted by the NHS or any health service in the world has seen more than three million individual pieces of patient feedback collated in our first year, allowing frontline staff to make immediate, clear, dynamic and demonstrable improvements to services.
7-Day Services – in an unprecedented move that makes England a world leader and places the NHS at the cutting edge of health provision, we took a massive step towards rolling out 7-Day Services in all hospitals over the next three years.
These were just a few of our successes and there are others, such as publishing surgical data, providing people with personal health budgets and our major strides in tackling dementia. But I cannot close without mentioning our total commitment to the 100,000 Genome Project announced by the Prime Minister a few months ago.
The £300million, four year project involves ground-breaking genetic research into cancer and rare diseases that will transform how diseases are diagnosed and treated. It will allow scientists to do pioneering new research to decode 100,000 human genomes – a patient’s personal DNA code.
The landmark project is on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world and will ensure the NHS as well as the UK’s research and life science sector is at the forefront of global advances in modern medicine.
So, not only have we enjoyed a tough but hugely successful and rewarding year, under the toughest of financial constraints, but we are also looking to the future that will see a more flexible NHS adapting to the needs of a growing and ageing population.