Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:
'This is a pragmatic plan with an ambitious vision to improve NHS care, but making it a reality will be extremely tough given growing pressures on services, widespread staff shortages and continued cuts to other parts of the health and care system.
'The plan outlines a positive shift in the model of NHS care, towards an increasing focus on preventing people becoming ill in the first place, reducing avoidable demand, and narrowing unjust gaps in health between the best and worst off. This is particularly welcome given life expectancy improvements are stalling and health inequalities widening.
'It also makes welcome commitments to improve care in key service areas – including cancer, maternity and mental health – and to continue longstanding work to coordinate local services better. This is important for the growing number of people living with multiple chronic conditions, one of the biggest challenges facing the NHS. In 2006/07, one in 10 patients admitted to hospital as an emergency had 5+ conditions. In 2015/16, this figure was one in three.
'The big challenge ahead is now to make it happen. The NHS is already short of 100,000 doctors, nurses and other staff. While there are initiatives in the plan to build the workforce, they need to be matched with action from central government to secure training budgets and a supportive migration policy to allow international recruitment that is vital to staffing the NHS. Front-line staff will need to be given the right support to deliver improvements in care.
'The extra £20.5bn by 2023/24 promised by the government is a substantial investment. But without a step change in productivity, or in managing demand for care, trade-offs are inevitable. These need to be spelled out clearly so the public know what they can expect from the NHS.
'Wider political decisions outside the control of the NHS will also impact on its ability to deliver. Without a solution to the growing crisis in social care, people will continue to suffer, and more pressure will be piled on the NHS. Without additional funding for public health, which runs services that are essential for keeping people healthy and reducing health inequalities, NHS plans in these areas risk stalling. The Health Foundation has calculated that an additional £3.2bn a year is required to reverse the impact of cuts to the public health grant and ensure that it is re-allocated according to need.
'Securing the future of the NHS is therefore as much about political choices as what NHS leaders have promised to deliver in their long-term plan.'
Assistant Director of Communications
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