Time to deliver: NHS priorities for the new government

18 / 12 / 2019

This report reflects on the pledges made in the Conservative Party manifesto and sets out how NHS Confederation members believe they should be developed to provide a comprehensive programme of action for the new government. It covers both the immediate actions needed and those that need to be delivered within the lifetime of this parliament, in five key areas: workforce, capital investment, social care, mental health and Brexit.

Key points

  • The NHS workforce requires sustained and significant investment in recruitment and retention. Meeting the shortfall in numbers across primary, secondary and community care will require careful planning. While the NHS People Plan will go some way to achieving this, the service will require additional funding beyond the government’s planned investment of £20.5 billion to create the additional nursing and other posts it needs to meet rising demand.
  • NHS estates are in poor shape, with significant investment needed to bring old buildings in line with modern standards. The money promised by the Conservative Party represents the beginning of what is needed and should be considered as separate to the spending required to modernise antiquated IT systems and bring old buildings up to standard.
  • The social care sector is facing increasing demand, growing unmet need and its own vacancy crisis. In the short term, a settlement to stabilise the sector must be reached. In the long term, the government must look at ways of improving the level of provision both to enable more people to access care and to reduce unnecessary demand on NHS services. The government should use its majority to deliver a sustainable social care system, backed up by a long-term financial settlement.
  • Improving the provision of mental health care across England is now a critical priority. Workforce shortages are most pronounced in the sector and many people trying to access services are not able to secure the support they need. A new mental health bill to implement the review of the Mental Health Act is the only foundation on which meaningful progress can be made.
  • NHS leaders are broadly happy with the direction of travel laid out in the NHS Long Term Plan, and with NHS England and NHS Improvement’s legislative proposals. Closer integration between providers and commissioners through the creation of integrated care systems and the establishment of primary care networks will be key to delivering better patient care. An NHS bill based on NHS England and NHS Improvement’s legislative proposals that gives statutory underpinning to these new ways of working must be laid before parliament to enable the system to push ahead with plans already underway.
  • The impact of Brexit on the health of the population must be minimised, and patient safety and access to life-saving drugs must be preserved upon the UK’s exit from the European Union. In order to ensure access to medicines and preserve the UK’s global position as a centre of medical and technological excellence, those stakeholders with expertise in these areas must be part of discussions over future arrangements between the UK and EU.

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