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The NHS needs to make common-sense and overdue changes that will improve care for patients, NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said today (Monday 14 November).
Sir Bruce was speaking as the King’s Fund published a new report on local plans to improve services, known as Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs).
Over the last six months, health and care leaders up and down the country have been working together to identify where sensible changes to services can deliver real improvements for patients.
Around one third of the 44 proposals are already published, with the remainder set to be shared with the public to kick off local discussion over the coming weeks.
Sir Bruce said: “Our NHS is one of this country’s proudest achievements and since its creation it has constantly adapted to improve services for patients.
“We are seeing more and more people with chronic conditions and as life expectancy increases, so do the ailments of old age which require closer linking of health and social care services.
“Advances in medicine also mean it is now possible to treat people at home who would previously have needed a trip to hospital. It also means those with the most serious illness need to be treated in centres where specialist help is available around the clock.
“So this is not a moment to sit on our hands. There are straight-forward, and frankly overdue things we can do to improve care. We are talking about steady incremental improvement, not a big bang. If we don’t, the problems will only get worse.
“It is self-evident that the NHS in every part of the country needs a clear plan to take advantage of these new opportunities and ensure it spends every pound of taxpayers’ money wisely.
“The plans all started from different places and they have all reached different stages so there is plenty of time to shape them. And now is the moment for the public to get involved – the NHS belongs to everyone.
“I am optimistic they will deliver practical improvements that will really make a difference to people.
“Things like making it easier to see a GP, providing more specialist services in people’s homes, speeding up the diagnosis of cancer and offering help faster to people with mental ill health.
“To realise these benefits some communities might need to make choices about where to put resources and the NHS will need to be clear with the public about the options. But as communities debate change the overriding concern must be to ensure we can all get excellent care whenever we need it.
“To help our NHS staff make the changes they know work, we need the public, and their elected representatives to work with us.”
Addressing some of the concerns raised about the STP process, Sir Bruce said: “I am sure there are things that could be learnt about the process. But when you are trying to improve care for patients across a whole system things are never going to be straightforward. It would be naïve to think otherwise. We need to keep our eye on the prize and that is better care for the people we serve.
“Claims of secrecy have been overtaken by the fact that we’ve asked that all STPs are now published over the next few weeks. And the extra time this has provided has given local hospitals, GPs and mental health service leaders the time they need to develop a starting-point for local conversations.”