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10-year plan will hold NHS leaders to account

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced a funding increase of 3.4% on average per year for the NHS from 2019/20 to 2023/24.  In a speech delivered yesterday (June 18) at the Royal Free Hospital in Wandsworth, she outlined more details. 


“By 2023/24 the NHS England budget will increase by £20.5 billion in real terms compared with today. That means it will be £394 million a week higher in real terms,” she said.


Although details of where the extra money will come from remain unclear, she did confirm that the public would need to pay more.


“Some of the extra funding I am promising today will come from using the money we will no longer spend on our annual membership subscription to the European Union after we have left.


“But the commitment I am making goes beyond that Brexit dividend because the scale of our ambition for our NHS is greater still.


“So, across the nation, taxpayers will have to contribute a bit more in a fair and balanced way to support the NHS we all use.


“We will listen to views about how we do this and the Chancellor will set out the detail in due course.”


Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary, says the funding announced is not enough. GMB, the union for NHS staff, has also criticised the plans, saying that the 3.4% a year commitment will not repair years of under-funding from the Conservative Government and still falls short of the 3.7% annual increase the health service has enjoyed for most of its 70 years.


10-year plan


Mrs May announced further steps to ensure the money is spent on improving patient care. A 10-year plan for the NHS will be agreed this year. “NHS leaders at national and local level must then be held to account for delivering this plan.”


The plan must tackle waste, reduce bureaucracy and eliminate unacceptable variation. It must also make better use of capital investment to modernise buildings and invest in technology to drive productivity improvements.


The government’s vision for the NHS includes breaking down the barriers between providers so staff are empowered to work together across organisations to address physical, mental and social care needs together. 


The Prime Minister identified five priorities: “Putting the patient at the heart of how we organise care; a workforce empowered to deliver the NHS of the future; harnessing the power of innovation; a focus on prevention, not just cure; and true parity of care between mental and physical health.”


Patient first - sharing best practice must be made easier. “Our long-term plan must empower NHS leaders to spread the very best of the NHS to every part of the country.”


At the moment, all too often the opposite is true, with those that are innovating feeling they are going against the grain and working within a system of business cases and templates “that seem to put process ahead of patients.”


Workforce – the 10-year plan must include a comprehensive plan for the workforce to develop staff with the right skills in the right place. It needs to be a flexible workforce that aligns working practices with modern lifestyles; it needs to make careers in the NHS more attractive; and it needs to move away from reliance on highly qualified healthcare staff from overseas and train more people from within the UK. 


Above all, the 10-year plan needs to: “fundamentally reset the deal between the NHS and its staff.” 


Technology – investment in technology must be made to improve patient care and outcomes as well as the way in which care is delivered. Mrs May said: “I am determined to position the UK at the forefront of the revolution in Artificial Intelligence and other technologies that can transform care and create whole new industries in healthcare, providing good jobs across the country.”


She added: “Put simply, our long-term plan for the NHS needs to view technology as more than supporting what the NHS is doing already.


“It must expand the boundaries of what the NHS can do in the future, in the fastest, safest and most ambitious way possible.”


Prevention of ill-health – this requires a move towards more personalised care, again using technology to help individuals to understand the risks to their own health and make healthier choices.


Mental health – more still needs to be done before mental healthcare is on a par with physical healthcare.  The long-term plan for mental health must therefore contain proposals that are even more innovative and ambitious. “The long-term plan must move us towards new clinically defined access standards for mental health that are as ambitious as those in physical health.”



The Prime Minister confirmed that the government should be prepared to support change across the NHS by reviewing legislation and changing it if necessary to remove bureaucracy and barriers to change. 


As the NHS works on the 10-year plan, the government will listen to its feedback on areas where legislation or current regulation may be creating barriers.


Click here to read the full speech.