As the NHS approaches its 70th anniversary the health service has today published the plan setting out how it will deliver practical improvements in areas prized by patients and the public – cancer, mental health and GP access – while transforming the way that care is delivered to ease pressure on hospitals by helping frail and older people live healthier, more independent lives.
These measures, probably the biggest national move towards integrated care currently underway in any Western country, will also help to put the service on a more sustainable footing for the future.
With the NHS under pressure this plan, Next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View, also details an accelerated drive to improve efficiency and use of technology in order to deliver better care and meet rising demand within the constraints of available resources.
Two-and-a-half years on from the publication of the widely-welcomed NHS Five Year Forward View, the plan spells out what has been achieved and the changes which will take place across the health service in key areas:
- Improved cancer care aimed at saving an extra 5,000 lives a year through new one-stop testing centres, screening programmes and state of the art radiotherapy machines.
- Boosting mental health services by increasing beds for children and young people to cut out of area care, more beds for new mothers and more mental health professionals in the community and hospitals to prevent crisis admissions.
- Better access to GP services with everyone benefiting from extended opening in the evenings and weekends, newly designated ‘Urgent Treatment Centres’ and an enhanced 111 service to ease pressure on A&Es.
- Better care for older people by bringing together services provided by GPs, hospitals, therapists, nurses and care staff, cutting emergency admissions and time spent in hospitals.
- Driving efficiency and tackling waste to make money invested in the NHS go further in delivering the services and staff that patients want, including the latest treatments and technology.
Launching the plan, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens said: “Heading into our 70th year, public support for the NHS is as strong as ever but so too are the pressures on our frontline staff.
“Today we chart a course for practical care improvements for the next few years. We do not underestimate the challenges but, get these right, and patients, staff and the tax-paying public will notice the benefits.”
The document outlines significant progress made over the last three years, including record high cancer survival rates, 8,000 extra doctors and nurses, the first ever waiting time standards for mental health treatment being introduced and met, and cutting waste – in particular agency staffing bills.
It also, however, frankly sets out where progress has not been as quick, with rising pressure on A&E and acute wards partly caused by delayed transfers of care.
Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said: “We welcome this delivery plan, and will work with NHS England to ensure it is delivered successfully and engages with patients nationally and locally.
“This is essential both to ensure that the importance of change is understood by everyone, and to get input from patients about how new and re-designed services can meet their needs.
“We call on decision-makers nationally and locally to support this process, to ensure that NHS services work well for patients now and in the future.”
Sir David Behan, Chief Executive of the Care Quality Commission, said: “The NHS and the wider health and care system needs a clear direction of travel if it is to meet both the current and future demands of the people across the country, who deserve nothing less than safe, high quality and compassionate care. Through our inspections, the case for change has never been more obvious.
“It is important that leaders across health reach out to their colleagues in local authorities to break down organisational barriers so that collectively, they can ensure people’s needs are always put first.
“The good news is that we are seeing this already through our inspection findings, with the development of the sustainability and transformational plans, and with the Government’s additional investment in social care.
“For the Next steps on the Five Year Forward View to be a success, it should not just be seen as a plan for the NHS but for local authorities to actively engage in too. Only this will bring about real and sustainable improvements in quality.”