Last month the PM published the NHS Long Term Plan – setting out how it intends to allocate the record extra funding for the NHS in England over the next 10 years. The Plan has been developed and driven forward by clinicians, patients and medical experts, and sets out a 10 year programme to protect the health service for generations to come and improve patient care.
As a former Health Minister, I have seen first-hand the impact that robust forward planning can make to patient care within the NHS. So I am convinced this Plan, backed with the government’s investment of £20.5 billion a year into the NHS in real terms by 2023/24, will help transform patient care. There is an appropriate focus on prevention, personal responsibility and promoting good health, with more rapid diagnostics, and a focus on new technologies and treatments to improve care.
I am particularly pleased to see real commitment to bringing the NHS into the digital age. Effective use of technology can help solve many of the issues facing our NHS today and into the future. The steps taken in the Plan will mean everyone in the country will have digital access to their GP, including being able to make appointments, manage prescriptions and view their health records online – helping to streamline the service for everyone, whether IT savvy or not.
This investment will also mean additional staffing throughout the NHS, with tens of thousands more doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Better prevention, detection, treatment and recovery from serious diseases alongside record investment in primary, community and mental healthcare will help improve health outcomes for all patients.
This includes earlier and more rapid diagnosis, new screening programmes and an offer of genomic testing to all people with cancer – so that in 10 years’ time, 55,000 more people survive cancer each year. It will also see improvements in the prevention, detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease, including expanding the use of mechanical thrombectomy in stroke care and improving access to cardiac rehabilitation to be amongst the best in Europe by 2028. Over 10 years, the plan will prevent up to 100,000 heart attacks, strokes & dementia cases and ensure 1,600 stroke patients avoid long-term disability each year.
Health and care teams will be expected to work more closely together, to make sure older people are getting the support they need to remain independent, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions.
I was a strong supporter of Freedom to Speak Up champions when I was a Health Minister. So I am pleased to see further commitment in the Long Term Plan to making the NHS more supportive of staff, clamping down on bullying and providing better support services, to ensure the NHS is a world-class employer.
Of course, there is an expectation that the NHS plays its part in cutting waste and uses taxpayers as efficiently as possible. When the NHS is receiving over £120bn per year of public money, even small savings in percentage terms can lead to significant extra funding to put back into patient services. So new digital ways of working and increasing back office efficiency will help save more than £700 million across the NHS.
In coming months the NHS will work with communities to see how this plan will be implemented at a local level, and I shall be pressing to see the detailed impact of this Plan for Shropshire.