Simon Stevens on integrated care: “There is no plan b”

Simon Stevens

In his fifth address to Confed conference as chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens gave his take on where health and care needs to go in the short and long term, and explained national plans for patients to spend less time in hospital. 

But he began by acknowledging that it was one year to the day since the Grenfell fire in London, and paid tribute to the GPs, community nurses, Red Cross volunteers and mental health staff who supported all those affected by the tragedy, both on the day and in the weeks and months afterwards. 

“The NHS is there when people need it, and the response to Grenfell embodies that covenant to the British people,” he said. 

The year ahead

Care still happens day in and day out, and the system continues to be under pressure, but as far as the year ahead, the urgent and emergency services need to be as well placed as possible for the pressures that are inevitably still to come. Although much of the focus is on hospitals, it is essential to include out-of-hospital care in this, he explained. 

Reiterating Ian Dalton’s view earlier in the day, and evidencing the more joined-up working with NHS England, he cited reducing long hospital stays as the top objective for the coming year, building on progress already achieved with local councils on delayed transfers of care. He called on NHS leaders to look at their own figures and ask themselves if they could take out some of that delay, to help deliver improvements in finance, performance and patient outcomes. There are 300,000 days a year to be gained if this can be done.

Workable, not a blockbuster, settlement

Moving on to the government’s promise of a long-term funding settlement, he said he was ‘heartened’ by the commitment but there is a need to think carefully about priorities, assuming that it’s a ‘workable’ and not a ‘blockbuster’ settlement. This, he said, would require an open and inclusive process to develop a long-term spending plan for the next five and ten years, but that this would be “all for the birds” unless the service keeps on top of operational issues. 

Highlighting childhood mortality, obesity and mental health, he said there must be a frank assessment of the what the inescapable demands on NHS and social care are likely to be, and that NHS England and NHS Improvement will work together to be more systematic in supporting efforts at care redesign. 

“There is no plan b”

Welcoming the Health Select Committee report on health and social care, he said that care redesign is already bearing fruit among the 12.5million people covered by integrated care systems, and that there is a keenness to accelerate that progress. “This is where the health and care sector is headed,” he said, “There is no plan b.”

He closed his address with a personal thank-you to everyone in the hall and their staff: “People in this country owe the health service and its leaders, and this gratitude will be seen between now and 5 July on very visible display.”

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