Prime Minister Theresa May’s 10-year plan for the NHS has been published, with promises of improvements to mental health support and maternity care.
NHS bosses in England said the new 10-year plan could save up to 500,000 lives by focusing on prevention and early detection of diseases such as strokes, heart problems and cancer. Theresa May said it was about “reshaping the NHS around the changing needs of patients”.
Unveiled by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens and Theresa May, the plan pledged the biggest funding increases to GPs, mental health and community care. It commits a third of the extra £20 billion that the NHS will get by 2023 to GPs, community care and mental health, whereas currently they account for less than a quarter of spending.
Simon Stevens called the plan a “practical, costed and phased route map” for the decade ahead. Mental health will get £2.3 billion extra of the £20 billion, while GP and community care is to get £4.5 billion. This will help pay for digital access to health services, including online GP booking and remote monitoring of conditions such as high blood pressure, more social prescribing to give GPs a range of options to tackle social problems, and healthy living programmes for patients struggling with ill health.
There will also be funding for new testing centres for cancer patients to ensure earlier diagnosis and extra support in the community so patients can be discharged quickly from hospital and reduce the number of outpatient appointments by a third.
Money will also go to mental health support in schools and 24-hour access to mental health crisis care through the NHS 111 service.
The other UK nations are drawing up their own plans but under the Government’s funding system they are getting an extra £4 billion between them by 2023.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said it was good to have a plan that “sets a clear direction for the NHS”.
But Labour said the plan lacked the staffing and funding to succeed. Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said the plan lacked both the staffing and funding to succeed and accused the Government of “mismanagement” of the health service. He said: “The NHS needs a credible fully-funded plan for the future, not a wish list to help Theresa May get through the coming months.”
NHS Providers Chief Executive Chris Hopson said the focus on out-of-hospital care should help relieve the pressures on hospitals but added: “If we are serious about helping people to stay well and live independently for as long as possible it is vital that we also see appropriate investment and support for social care and public health.”
Unions warned that the workforce shortages could undermine the programme. Unison Head of Health Sara Gorton said: “Without the staff, there is no NHS. Ministers must say more about how they plan to address the staffing shortages.”
Simon Stevens responded by telling the BBC that the NHS plans to train between 25% and 50% more nurses and has five new medical schools ready to train doctors. He said: “We’ve got to do a better job of looking after the staff that we have. I think people are under huge stress and pressure. We’ve got to change the way the health service works.”
British Medical Association (BMA) Chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul also warned that solving the NHS workforce crisis was vital. He said: “There is no use in opening the digital front door to the health service if we don’t have the healthcare staff behind it.”
He added that there was very little offered in the way of detail on expanding capacity and growing the workforce, given that there are 100,000 staff vacancies within the NHS.
Last reviewed 8 January 2019