Chapter four – How will we get there?

This ‘Forward View’ sets out a clear direction for the NHS – showing why change is needed and what it will look like. Some of what is needed can be brought about by the NHS itself. Other actions require new partnerships with local communities, local authorities and employers. Some critical decisions – for example on investment, on local reconfigurations, or on various public health measures – need the explicit support of the elected government.

So in addition to the strategies we have set out earlier in this document we also believe these complementary approaches are needed, and we will play our full part in achieving them:

We will back diverse solutions and local leadership

As a nation we’ve just taken the unique step anywhere in the world of entrusting frontline clinicians with two thirds – £66 billion – of our health service funding. Many CCGs are now harnessing clinical insight and energy to drive change in their local health systems in a way that frankly has not been achievable before now. NHS England intends progressively to offer them more influence over the total NHS budget for their local populations, ranging from primary to specialised care.

We will also work with ambitious local areas to define and champion a limited number of models of joint commissioning between the NHS and local government. These will include Integrated Personal Commissioning (described in chapter two) as well as Better Care Fund-style pooling budgets for specific services where appropriate, and under specific circumstances possible full joint management of social and health care commissioning, perhaps under the leadership of Health and Wellbeing Boards. However, a proper evaluation of the results of the 2015/16 BCF is needed before any national decision is made to expand the Fund further.

Furthermore, across the NHS we detect no appetite for a wholesale structural reorganisation. In particular, the tendency over many decades for government repeatedly to tinker with the number and functions of the health authority / primary care trust / clinical commissioning group tier of the NHS needs to stop. There is no ‘right’ answer as to how these functions are arranged – but there is a wrong answer, and that is to keep changing your mind. Instead, the default assumption should be that changes in local organisational configurations should arise only from local work to develop the new care models described in chapter three, or in response to clear local failure and the resulting implementation of ‘special measures’.

We will provide aligned national NHS leadership

NHS England, Monitor, the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Care Quality Commission, Health Education England, NICE and Public Health England have distinctive national duties laid on them by statute, and rightly so. However in their individual work with the local NHS there are various ways in which more action in concert would improve the impact and reduce the burden on frontline services. Here are some of the ways in which we intend to develop our shared work as it affects the local NHS:

  • Through a combined work programme to support the development of new local care models, as set out at the end of chapter three. In addition to national statutory bodies, we will collaborate with patient and voluntary sector organisations in developing this programme.
  • Furthermore, Monitor, TDA and NHS England will work together to create greater alignment between their respective local assessment, reporting and intervention regimes for Foundation Trusts, NHS trusts, and CCGs, complementing the work of CQC and HEE. This will include more joint working at regional and local level, alongside local government, to develop a whole-system, geographically-based intervention regime where appropriate. NHS England will also develop a new risk-based CCG assurance regime that will lighten the quarterly assurance reporting burden from high performing CCGs, while setting out a new ‘special measures’ support regime for those that are struggling.
  • Using existing flexibilities and discretion, we will deploy national regulatory, pricing and funding regimes to support change in specific local areas that is in the interest of patients.
  • Recognising the ultimate responsibilities of individual NHS boards for the quality and safety of the care being provided by their organisation, there is however also value in a forum where the key NHS oversight organisations can come together regionally and nationally to share intelligence, agree action and monitor overall assurance on quality. The National Quality Board provides such a forum, and we intend to reenergise it under the leadership of the senior clinicians (chief medical and nursing officers / medical and nursing directors / chief inspectors / heads of profession) of each of the national NHS leadership bodies alongside CCG leaders, providers, regulators and patient and lay representatives.

We will support a modern workforce

Health care depends on people — nurses, porters consultants and receptionists, scientists and therapists and many others. We can design innovative new care models, but they simply won’t become a reality unless we have a workforce with the right numbers, skills, values and behaviours to deliver it. That’s why ensuring the NHS becomes a better employer is so important: by supporting the health and wellbeing of frontline staff; providing safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory opportunities; and supporting employees to raise concerns, and ensuring managers quickly act on them.

Since 2000, the workforce has grown by 160,000 more whole-time equivalent clinicians. In the past year alone staff numbers at Foundation Trusts are up by 24,000 – a 4% increase. However, these increases have not fully reflected changing patterns of demand. Hospital consultants have increased around three times faster than GPs and there has been an increasing trend towards a more specialised workforce, even though patients with multiple conditions would benefit from a more holistic clinical approach. And we have yet to see a significant shift from acute to community sector based working – just a 0.6% increase in the numbers of nurses working in the community over the past ten years.

Employers are responsible for ensuring they have sufficient staff with the right skills to care for their patients. Supported by Health Education England, we will address immediate gaps in key areas. We will put in place new measures to support employers to retain and develop their existing staff, increase productivity and reduce the waste of skills and money. We will consider the most appropriate employment arrangements to enable our current staff to work across organisational and sector boundaries. HEE will work with employers, employees and commissioners to identify the education and training needs of our current workforce, equipping them with the skills and flexibilities to deliver the new models of care, including the development of transitional roles. This
will require a greater investment in training for existing staff, and the active engagement of clinicians and managers who are best placed to know what support they need to deliver new models of care.

Since it takes time to train skilled staff (for example, up to thirteen years to train a consultant), the risk is that the NHS will lock itself into outdated models of delivery unless we radically alter the way in which we plan and train our workforce. HEE will therefore work with its statutory partners to commission and expand new health and care roles, ensuring we have a more flexible workforce that can provide high quality care wherever and whenever the patient needs it. This work will be taken forward through the HEE’s leadership of the implementation of the Shape of Training Review for the medical profession and the Shape of Care Review for the nursing profession, so that we can ‘future proof’ the NHS against the challenges to come.

More generally, over the next several years, NHS employers and staff and their representatives will need to consider how working patterns and pay and terms and conditions can best evolve to fully reward high performance, support job and service redesign, and encourage 31 recruitment and retention in parts of the country and in occupations where vacancies are high.

We will exploit the information revolution

There have been three major economic transitions in human history – the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and now the information revolution. But most countries’ health care systems have been slow to recognise and capitalise on the opportunities presented by the information revolution. For example, in Britain 86% of adults use the internet but only 2% report using it to contact their GP.

While the NHS is a world-leader in primary care computing and some aspects of our national health infrastructure (such as NHS Choices which gets 40 million visits a month, and the NHS Spine which handles 200 million interactions a month), progress on hospital systems has been slow following the failures of the previous ‘connecting for health’ initiative. More generally, the NHS is not yet exploiting its comparative  advantage as a population-focused national service, despite the fact that our spending on health-related IT has grown rapidly over the past decade or so and is now broadly at the levels that might be expected looking at comparable industries and countries.

Part of why progress has not been as fast as it should have been is that the NHS has oscillated between two opposite approaches to information technology adoption – neither of which now makes sense. At times we have tried highly centralised national procurements and implementations. When they have failed due to lack of local engagement and lack of sensitivity to local circumstances, we have veered to the opposite extreme of ‘letting a thousand flowers bloom’. The result has been systems that don’t talk to each other, and a failure to harness the shared benefits that come from interoperable systems.

In future we intend to take a different approach. Nationally we will focus on the key systems that provide the ‘electronic glue’ which enables different parts of the health service to work together. Other systems will be for the local NHS to decide upon and procure, provided they meet nationally specified interoperability and data standards.

To lead this sector-wide approach a National Information Board has been established which brings together organisations from across the NHS, public health, clinical science, social care, local government and public representatives. To advance the implementation of this Five Year Forward View, later this financial year the NIB will publish a set of ‘road maps’ laying out who will do what to transform digital care. Key elements will include:

  • Comprehensive transparency of performance data – including the results of treatment and what patients and carers say – to help health professionals see how they are performing compared to others and improve; to help patients make informed choices; and to help CCGs and NHS England commission the best quality care.
  • An expanding set of NHS accredited health apps that patients will be able to use to organise and manage their own health and care; and the development of partnerships with the voluntary sector and industry to support digital inclusion.
  • Fully interoperable electronic health records so that patients’ records are largely paperless. Patients will have full access to these records, and be able to write into them. They will retain the right to opt out of their record being shared electronically. The NHS number, for safety and efficiency reasons, will be used in all settings,  including social care.
  • Family doctor appointments and electronic and repeat prescribing available routinely on-line everywhere.
  • Bringing together hospital, GP, administrative and audit data to support the quality improvement, research, and the identification of patients who most need health and social care support. Individuals will be able to opt out of their data being used in this way.
  • Technology – including smartphones – can be a great leveller and, contrary to some perceptions, many older people use the internet. However, we will take steps to ensure that we build the capacity of all citizens to access information, and train our staff so that they are able to support those who are unable or unwilling to use new technologies.

We will accelerate useful health innovation

Britain has a track record of discovery and innovation to be proud of. We’re the nation that has helped give humanity antibiotics, vaccines, modern nursing, hip replacements, IVF, CT scanners and breakthrough discoveries from the circulation of blood to the DNA double helix—to name just a few. These have benefited not only our patients, but also the British economy – helping to make us a leader in a growing part of the world economy.

Research is vital in providing the evidence we need to transform services and improve outcomes. We will continue to support the work of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and the network of specialist clinical research facilities in the NHS. We will also develop the active collection and use of health outcomes data, offering patients the chance to participate in research; and, working with partners, ensuring use of NHS clinical assets to support research in medicine.

We should be both optimistic and ambitious for the further advances that lie within our reach. Medicine is becoming more tailored to the individual; we are moving from one-size-fits-all to personalised care offering higher cure rates and fewer side effects. That’s why, for example, the NHS and our partners have begun a ground-breaking new initiative launched by the Prime Minister which will decode 100,000 whole genomes within the NHS. Our clinical teams will support this applied research to help improve diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases and cancers.

Steps we will take to speed innovation in new treatments and diagnostics

  • The NHS has the opportunity radically to cut the costs of conducting Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs), not only by streamlining approval processes but also by harnessing clinical technology. We will support the rollout of the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, and efforts to enable its use to support observational studies and  quicker lower cost RCTs embedded within routine general practice and clinical care.
  • In some cases it will be hard to test new treatment approaches using RCTs because the populations affected are too small. NHS England already has a £15m a year programme, administered by NICE, now called “commissioning through evaluation” which examines real world clinical evidence in the absence of full trial data. At a time when NHS funding is constrained it would be difficult to justify a further major diversion of resources from proven care to treatments of unknown cost effectiveness. However, we will explore how to expand this programme and the Early Access to Medicines programme in future years. It will be easier if the costs of doing so can be supported by those manufacturers who would like their products evaluated in this way.
  • A smaller proportion of new devices and equipment go through NICE’s assessment process than do pharmaceuticals. We will work with NICE to expand work on devices and equipment and to support the best approach to rolling out high value innovations—for example, operational pilots to generate evidence on the real world financial and operational impact on services—while decommissioning outmoded legacy technologies and treatments to help pay for them.
  • The Department of Health-initiated Cancer Drugs Fund has expanded access to new cancer medicines. We expect over the next year to consult on a new approach to converging its assessment and prioritisation processes with a revised approach from NICE.
  • The average time it takes to translate a discovery into clinical practice is however often too slow. So as well as a commitment to research, we are committed to accelerating the quicker adoption of cost-effective innovation – both medicines and medtech. We will explore with partners—including patients and voluntary sector organisations—a number of new mechanisms for achieving this.

Accelerating innovation in new ways of delivering care

Many of the innovation gains we should be aiming for over the next five or so years probably won’t come from new standalone diagnostic technologies or treatments – the number of these blockbuster ‘silver bullets’ is inevitably limited.

But we do have an arguably larger unexploited opportunity to combine different technologies and changed ways of working in order to transform care delivery. For example, equipping house-bound elderly patients who suffer from congestive heart failure with new biosensor technology that can be remotely monitored can enable community nursing teams to improve outcomes and reduce hospitalisations. But any one of these components by itself produces little or no gain, and may in fact just add cost. So instead we need what is now being termed ‘combinatorial innovation’.

The NHS will become one of the best places in the world to test innovations that require staff, technology and funding all to align in a health system, with universal coverage serving a large and diverse population. In practice, our track record has been decidedly mixed. Too often single elements have been ‘piloted’ without other needed components. Even where ‘whole system’ innovations have been tested, the design has sometimes been weak, with an absence of control groups plus inadequate and rushed implementation. As a result they have produced limited empirical insight.

Over the next five years we intend to change that. Alongside the approaches we spell out in chapter three, three of the further mechanisms we will use are:

  • Develop a small number of ‘test bed’ sites alongside our Academic Health Science Networks and Centres. They would serve as real world sites for ‘combinatorial’ innovations that integrate new technologies, bioinformatics, new staffing models and payment-for-outcomes. Innovators from the UK and internationally will be able to bid to have their proposed discovery or innovation deployed and tested in these sites.
  • Working with NIHR and the Department of Health we will expand NHS operational research, RCT capability and other methods to promote more rigorous ways of answering high impact questions in health services redesign. An example of the sort of question that might be tested: how best to evolve GP out of hours and NHS 111 services so as to improve patient understanding of where and when to seek care, while improving clinical outcomes and ensuring the most appropriate use of ambulance and A&E services. Further work will also be undertaken on behavioural ‘nudge’ type policies in health care.
  • We will explore the development of health and care ‘new towns’. England’s population is projected to increase by about 3 to 4 million by 2020. New town developments and the refurbishment of some urban areas offers the opportunity to design modern services from scratch, with fewer legacy constraints – integrating not only health and social care, but also other public services such as welfare, education and affordable housing. The health  campus already planned for Watford is one example of this.

We will drive efficiency and productive investment

It has previously been calculated by Monitor, separately by NHS England, and also by independent analysts, that a combination of a) growing demand, b) no further annual efficiencies, and c) flat real terms funding could, by 2020/21, produce a mismatch between resources and patient needs of nearly £30 billion a year.

So to sustain a comprehensive high-quality NHS, action will be needed on all three fronts. Less impact on any one of them will require compensating action on the other two.


On demand, this Forward View makes the case for a more activist prevention and public health agenda: greater support for patients, carers and community organisations; and new models of primary and out-of- hospital care. While the positive effects of these will take some years to show themselves in moderating the rising demands on hospitals, over the medium term the results could be substantial. Their net impact will however also partly depend on the availability of social care services over the next five years.


Over the long run, NHS efficiency gains have been estimated by the Office for Budget Responsibility at around 0.8% net annually. Given the pressures on the public finances and the opportunities in front of us, 0.8% a year will not be adequate, and in recent years the NHS has done more than twice as well as this.

A 1.5% net efficiency increase each year over the next Parliament should be obtainable if the NHS is able to accelerate some of its current efficiency programmes, recognising that some others that have contributed over the past five years will not be indefinitely repeatable. For example as the economy returns to growth, NHS pay will need to stay broadly in line with private sector wages in order to recruit and retain frontline staff.

Our ambition, however, would be for the NHS to achieve 2% net efficiency gains each year for the rest of the decade – possibly increasing to 3% over time. This would represent a strong performance – compared with the NHS’ own past, compared with the wider UK economy, and with other countries’ health systems. It would require investment in new care models and would be achieved by a combination of “catch up” (as less efficient providers matched the performance of the best), “frontier shift” (as new and better ways of working of the sort laid out in chapters three and four are achieved by the whole sector), and moderating demand increases which would begin to be realised towards the end of the second half of the five year period (partly as described in chapter two). It would improve the quality and responsiveness of care, meaning patients getting the ‘right care, at the right time, in the right setting, from the right caregiver’. The Nuffield Trust for example calculates that doing so could avoid the need for another 17,000 hospital beds – equivalent to opening 34 extra 500-bedded hospitals over the next five years.


NHS spending has been protected over the past five years, and this has helped sustain services. However, pressures are building. In terms of future funding scenarios, flat real terms NHS spending overall would represent a continuation of current budget protection. Flat real terms NHS spending per person would take account of population growth. Flat NHS spending as a share of GDP would differ from the long term trend in which health spending in industrialised countries tends to rise a share of national income.

Depending on the combined efficiency and funding option pursued, the effect is to close the £30 billion gap by one third, one half, or all the way.

  • In scenario one, the NHS budget remains flat in real terms from 2015/16 to 2020/21, and the NHS delivers its long run productivity gain of 0.8% a year. The combined effect is that the £30 billion gap in 2020/21 is cut by about a third, to £21 billion.
  • In scenario two, the NHS budget still remains flat in real terms over the period, but the NHS delivers stronger efficiencies of 1.5% a year. The combined effect is that the £30 billion gap in 2020/21 is halved, to £16 billion.
  • In scenario   three, the NHS gets the needed infrastructure and operating investment to rapidly move to the new care models and ways of working described in this Forward View, which in turn enables demand and efficiency gains worth 2%-3% net each year. Combined with staged funding increases close to ‘flat real per person’ the £30 billion gap is closed by 2020/21.

Decisions on these options will inevitably need to be taken in the context of how the UK economy overall is performing, during the next Parliament. However nothing in the analysis above suggests that continuing with a comprehensive tax-funded NHS is intrinsically undoable – instead it suggests that there are viable options for sustaining and improving the NHS over the next five years, provided that the NHS does its part, together with the support of government. The result would be a far better future for the NHS, its patients, its staff and those who support them.

Box5: What might this mean for patients? Five year ambitions for cancer

One in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. Fortunately half of those with cancer will now live for at least ten years, whereas forty years ago the average survival was only one year. But cancer survival is below the European average, especially for people aged over 75, and especially when measured at one year after diagnosis compared with five years. This suggests that late diagnosis and variation in subsequent access to some treatments are key reasons for the gap.

So improvements in outcomes will require action on three fronts: better prevention, swifter access to diagnosis, and better treatment and care for all those diagnosed with cancer. If the steps we set out in this Forward View are implemented and the NHS continues to be properly resourced, patients will reap benefits in all three areas:

Better prevention. An NHS that works proactively with other partners to maintain and improve health will help reduce the future incidence of cancer. The relationship between tobacco and cancer is well known, and we will ensure everyone who smokes has access to high quality smoking cessation services, working with local government partners to increase our focus on pregnant women and those with mental health conditions. There is also increasing evidence of a relationship between obesity and cancer. The World Health Organisation has estimated that between 7% and 41% of certain cancers are attributable to obesity and overweight, so the focus on reducing obesity outlined in Chapter two of this document could also contribute towards our wider efforts on cancer prevention.

Faster diagnosis. We need to take early action to reduce the proportion of patients currently diagnosed through A&E—currently about 25% of all diagnoses. These patients are far less likely to survive a year than those who present at their GP practice. Currently, the average GP will see fewer than eight new patients with cancer each year, and may see a rare cancer once in their career.   They will therefore need support to spot suspicious combinations of symptoms. The new care models set out in this document will help ensure that there are sufficient numbers of GPs working in larger practices with greater access to diagnostic and specialist advice. We will also work to expand access to screening, for example, by extending breast cancer screening to additional age groups, and spreading the use of screening for colorectal cancer. As well as supporting clinicians to spot cancers earlier, we need to support people to visit their GP at the first sign of something suspicious. If we are able to deliver the vision set out in this Forward View at sufficient pace and scale, we believe that over the next five years, the NHS can deliver a 10% increase in those patients diagnosed early, equivalent to about 8,000 more patients living longer than five years after diagnosis.

Better treatment and care for all. It is not enough to improve the rates of diagnosis unless we also tackle the current variation in treatment and outcomes. We will use our commissioning and regulatory powers to ensure that existing quality standards and NICE guidance are more uniformly implemented, across all areas and age groups, encouraging shared learning through transparency of performance data, not only by institution but also along by route of diagnosis. And for some specialised cancer services we will encourage further consolidation into specialist centres that will increasingly become responsible for developing networks of supporting services.

But combined with this consolidation of the most specialised care, we will make supporting care available much closer to people’s homes; for example, a greater role for smaller hospitals and expanded primary care will allow more chemotherapy to be provided in community. We will also work in partnership with patient organisations to promote the provision of the Cancer Recovery Package, to ensure care is coordinated between primary and acute care, so that patients are assessed and care planned appropriately. Support and aftercare and end of life care – which improves patient experience and patient reported outcomes – will all increasingly be provided in community settings.


A&E Accident & Emergency
AHSCs Academic Health Science Centres
AHSNs Academic Health Science Networks
BCF Better Care Fund
CCGs Clinical Commissioning Groups
CQC Care Quality Commission
CT Computerised Tomography
EBITDA Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation
GP General Practitioner
HEE Health Education England
IPC Integrated Personal Commissioning
IVF In Vitro Fertilisation
LTCs Long term conditions
NHS IQ NHS Improving Quality
NHS TDA NHS Trust Development Authority
NIB National Information Board
NICE National Institute of Clinical Excellence
NIHR National Institute of Health Research
PHE Public Health England
RCTs Randomised Controlled Trials
TUC Trades Union Congress
WHO World Health Organisation

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