NHS launches new offer to put health at the heart of new communities

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens today (Wednesday) has launched a new initiative together with Public Health England, to put health at the heart of new neighbourhoods and towns across the country.

Speaking at the Local Government Association annual conference today in Harrogate, Mr Stevens backed a renewed focus on new affordable housing by offering support from the NHS to help “design in” health and modern care from the outset.

Simon Stevens said: “The NHS is ready to roll its sleeves up and play its part in putting health at the heart of our new neighbourhoods and town. This country needs a big expansion in affordable new house building, but as we do so, let’s future-proof our new communities for the health and care challenges of this new century – obesity, dementia, new models of digital health.”

“We want to work together with local councils and others to design and develop new town partnerships that put innovative health and social care practice at the very heart of urban planning to create healthier places to live from the outset.

“In practical terms that means a triple agenda: designing-in healthy living, capitalising on new home-based care and technologies to support older people at home, and sharing infrastructure across public services to make smarter use of taxpayers investment.”

To advance this agenda, and as set out in the NHS Five Year Forward View, NHS England with support from Public Health England are today inviting leading local authorities, housing associations and the construction sector to identify development projects where they would like NHS support in creating health-promoting new towns and neighbourhoods in England.

With around 200,000 extra homes needed to be built every year for the next five years, the challenges are significant but as construction picks up, there is a huge opportunity to shape places to radically improve population health, integrate health and care services, and offer new digital and virtual care fit for the future.

Up to five long-term partnerships will initially be selected from across the country, covering housing developments of different sizes, from smaller projects up to those over 10,000 units.  Each site will benefit from a programme of support including global expertise in spatial and urban design, national sponsorship and increased local flexibilities.

These areas are expected to show how this new approach will help:

  • Build new communities that support social cohesion, physical and mental wellbeing, walking cycling and sports in place of our current ‘obesogenic’ built environments.
  • Leapfrog old ways of providing community health and social care services by designing-in the use of new digital technologies to help people live independently in their own homes.
  • Share land and buildings infrastructure such as new NHS clinics, schools, police and fire stations and other public services.

Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, said: “PHE welcomes the opportunity to work with NHS England and local government on designing in health from the start in a range of new communities up and down the country. Everyone, wherever they are, should be able to live, work and enjoy a place that promotes health and wellbeing, sustains supportive and active communities, and helps close the gap in life expectancy that the better off areas experience today.

More information about the programme can be found in the Healthy New Towns programme prospectus.

Interested organisations have until 30 September to submit their expressions of interest.

The NHS will work with selected areas to redesign local health and social care services, in line with the NHS Five Year Forward View, taking advantage of absence of legacy constraints to transform local communities and the public attitudes to healthy living.  Alongside the vanguard sites launched earlier this year, these areas will serve as exemplars of what is possible and support learning to be used elsewhere.  The scheme aims to strengthen communities, meet the health needs of local people and help people live independently for longer.