A new era has been ushered in by the NHS Long-Term Plan - but beware of over-promising, says NHS Confederation

Niall Dickson

Responding to NHS England’s announcement of the Long-term Plan, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:
“This plan heralds an end of austerity for the NHS and as such, marks the dawn of a new era – one in which we will need to transform the way services are delivered to patients and the public.
“The plan looks set to promise a host of improvements, including in areas such as maternity care, children’s services, cancer care, mental health and heart disease. It will also signal significantly more investment in community care, much greater use of digital technology and more emphasis on prevention. 
“We very much welcome the increased funding for the NHS and the vision to strengthen and improve services. But the plan cannot escape the harsh reality that the NHS will still face tough decisions on what it can and cannot do. Our plea is that politicians be honest about the trade-offs that will be required and that we are realistic about what can be achieved given the ever-increasing demands of an ageing population. 
“The next few years will be about balancing the need to keep the NHS going, overcoming the large deficits in many hospitals and other NHS organisations, delivering some improvements, and preparing for new ways of delivering care that will make the NHS sustainable. This is not about miracles – money will be tight and staffing will remain a headache for years to come. Getting a long-term strategy for the NHS workforce is crucial. 
"The ambitions in the plan will also in part be determined by factors beyond the NHS's control. The Government must find a solution to the social care crisis that has seen thousands of people no longer receiving the care and support they need. It must also follow through on its commitment to improve the health of the nation through better prevention by overturning the significant cuts we have seen to public health budgets. Failure to address these issues will continue to place significant extra pressure on front-line NHS services.  
“We now need to see the detail of the plan. Plans are fine, but the challenge is how they are implemented, and we will be watching closely to see whether this plan meets three key tests of it set by our members who are leading front-line services: is it deliverable and affordable; does it enable care to shift out of hospitals and closer to people’s homes; and does it give local leaders the freedom they need to shape and develop the health services required in their area?”

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