Long-term plan ambition is one thing and action is something else, says NHS Confederation

Niall Dickson

Responding to early reports about the NHS Long-term Plan for England, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said:

The government is right - we need to do much more to improve the health of the nation through better prevention and detection of disease. Failure to tackle obesity and alcoholism has not only blighted thousands of lives but has also piled pressure on the NHS front-line. 

"But ambition is one thing, action is something else. We will need to see more detail of how this will be achieved - budgets for public health have been significantly cut in recent years. 


“And while we recognise the health and social care secretary's desire to target people who are most in need of advice and support, this should not come at the expense of more blanket measures that are proven to have success, such as minimum alcohol pricing. 


"We also welcome the ambitious plans to improve access to mental health services for children and young adults, and the public more generally. 


"Providing more support for patients with depression and other common conditions, 
through treatments such as talking therapies, should help reduce the rising demand for mental health servicesBut other core areas of mental health services for the acutely ill are also under enormous strain and need more resources if they are to cope over the next few years. There is still a gap that needs to be filled between the Government's laudable ambitions and the reality on the front-line.


"What’s more, to meet the Government's ambitions for the NHS over the next decade we need the right staff with the right skills. With 100,000 vacancies across the NHS in England, even if you gave the health service its £20billion up front, it would not be able to provide the care people need. It is therefore disappointing that the planned workforce strategy looks as if it will be delayed until later this year. 


"Finally, while we await full details of the plan tomorrow, we are clear that it needs to meet three key tests: it needs to be realistic, deliverable and affordable; it needs to enable care to shift out of hospitals and into the community to deliver care closer to, and in, people’s homes; and it must give local leaders the freedom they need to determine the future of local health services where they are. 


"Above all, we know that simply pouring more money into how we have traditionally provided health services will not deliver the step change required to improve care for patients and make the service sustainable.”


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