Bringing treatment closer to home the right direction of travel but more support and investment is required

Matthew Taylor comments on the Conservative Party’s plans to bring more care services into the community.

1 June 2024

Responding to the Conservative Party’s plans to bring more care services into the community, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“To deliver the step change in health and wellbeing that this country needs, we need to increase investment and support for services that are delivered in the community and close to people’s homes, so we welcome these proposals. This is the right direction of travel if we want to place the NHS on a more sustainable footing. 

“For most people, being treated at or close to home is what is best for their health and how they want to be cared for, and it’s also cost-effective for the NHS. To make this a reality, we need to see whoever is elected next shift more resources into primary care, community services and social care. But as our survey of NHS leaders this week revealed, many NHS organisations are having to make short term cuts to their clinical and administrative staff to balance their books. We can’t let our long term ambitions to expand the NHS workforce and shift more care into the community be derailed by short term cost pressures.  

“The Conservatives proposals to extend Pharmacy First will build on the success of this scheme in widening the treatments that pharmacists are providing. This is not only good for the public in accessing safe and convenient care for minor conditions more quickly, but it is also helping to ease some of the considerable burden on GPs and their teams. But pharmacy is also experiencing the same staffing and estate issues as general practice, so any expansion of the scheme would need to consider how best to address that capacity crunch.  

“Overall, this is the right direction of travel but it requires more support and investment for primary care, community and social care services – and successive governments have rarely delivered on this ambition. We have an ageing, increasingly sicker, population but with only flat funding to deal with rising demand for care, public spending plans for 2025 onwards are looking perilous. The Conservatives proposals to fund their plans by further cutting NHS management costs needs to be considered carefully against the fact that the NHS is already under-managed, and with managers playing a key role in efforts to improve NHS productivity. 

“The transition to delivering more care in the community is therefore right but likely to require extra funding, especially in capital given the primary care estate, and other parts of the NHS estate, are in a poor state. From our own research, we know that investing in primary and community care services delivers the greatest economic return. We therefore encourage all parties to make this a key component of their manifesto commitments on health and care.”