On Monday, the NHS long-term plan was published by NHS England. This document sets out a vision for the next ten years for the NHS following the government’s announcements on funding last year. It is a really important document for setting overall direction for the service and shaping our own priorities here at Barts Health. It is also quite a lengthy document (!) but there is really good summary material, including videos and case studies online. The NHS Providers website also has more information. This is a more detailed national plan than its predecessor, the Five Year Forward View, and signals a return to clearer national direction for many services.
The plan sets out some really clear and ambitious priorities for changes to the way that services work. It encourages all NHS organisations to do more to join up care across different services and to do more to prevent ill health and reduce health inequalities. Some of the big ambitions include:
- The creation of primary care networks to join up general practice services with digital access to GP services for patients
- A major focus on treating more patients in the community or at home to reduce the pressure on hospital services, particularly A&E departments, with more patients seen in A&E being discharged the same day
- More action to reduce smoking and alcohol consumption and to prevent diabetes, including an important role for hospitals to influence patient behaviour
- More use of digital technology, including for outpatient appointments with an aim of providing many outpatient services online
- Improvements to maternity care, including an ambition to significantly reduce stillbirth and maternal death rates and to improve children’s services
- More action to diagnose cancer at an earlier stage in order to improve survival rates and more work to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease at an early stage, and
- Commitments to more training places for nurses and doctors in order to reduce vacancy rates across these and other areas of our workforce.
As a provider mainly of hospital care, the plan challenges us to think differently about how we work, how we can join up more effectively with other organisations and how we can prevent as well as cure disease. All of this is consistent with our clinical strategy [pdf] 2MB and work already going on across our systems, but the plan challenges us to be more ambitious for change, including by embracing innovation and new technology.
Delivering the plan will be challenging in an environment where funding remains limited and where our staff and services remain under significant pressure, no more so than at this time of year. We will need to work closely with partners across East London and the first step is for our local systems to set out our own plans over the next few months to meet the national ambitions. Our eight clinical boards and staff across our sites will be playing a key role in that process.
Finally, the plan reminds of the critical role the NHS plays in our national life and the vital role that we have at Barts Health to improve the health of people across East London. As we enter a New Year that reminder feels timely and important.
Ralph Coulbeck, director of strategy