Simon Stevens: “The last 12 months has been a story of delivery and progress in the face of mounting pressure”
NHS England has made improvements to a range of areas over the past 12 months – we must continue to work together to make the Long Term Plan a success across every region, writes Simon Stevens
When I spoke to The House magazine last summer the NHS had just received a multi-year funding settlement from the Government for just the second time in its 71-year history.
This certainty means the NHS has been able to come together, along with our partners in local government, charities and patient groups, to create the NHS Long Term Plan, mapping out how treatment and care will improve and evolve over the next decade.
As I promised last summer, the plan includes ramping up mental health services – particularly for young people – with investment rising faster than the NHS budget as a whole.
There is also action on major killers such as cancer, an historic commitment that spending on primary and community care will rise as a share of the NHS budget, and a renewed focus on prevention.
The Long Term Plan will future-proof the NHS, using the latest technology to deliver more efficient and convenient care, and genetic sequencing to enable personalised, precision medicine.
While we have had our eyes on the future, and take pride in our past, the NHS must always be rooted in the present.
The last 12 months has been a story of delivery and progress in the face of mounting pressure.
We have seen 780,000 more A&E patients looked after within four hours and thousands more benefiting from same day emergency care.
We continue to work with local authorities to help people leave hospital with the right support quicker, freeing up more than 2,000 hospital beds.
We have seen cancer outcomes continue to improve, with the chances of dying from breast cancer now 18% lower than they were just five years ago.
That is thanks in part to the NHS now delivering more than two million urgent cancer checks annually.
In mental health services, the NHS is already seeing more children, young people and adults for common disorders than ever before. Meanwhile almost 700,000 more routine treatments began in 2018/19, and thousands more diagnostic tests take place every single day.
These achievements are down to the hard-work and dedication of NHS staff who, in the face of constrained finances, have driven productivity across the health service NHS three times faster than the rest of the UK economy - proving that extra investment in the NHS is money well spent.
While this record of delivery shows that the ambitious improvements for patients and for staff set out in the NHS Long Term Plan can be made, there is more we must do in this coming year to ensure they become reality.
We will need to agree with government what investment there will be in the NHS buildings, equipment, staff training and education, as well as in local council public health and social care services.
Parliament and the government also asked the NHS to make proposals for how primary legislation might be adjusted to better support delivery of the agreed changes set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.
We are now refining the proposals after a public consultation, scrutiny and welcome support from the Health and Social Care Committee and hope that Parliamentary time allows for them to progress.
But we have not waited for changes to the law before implementing the improvements set out in the Long Term Plan.
We have already agreed a new five-year GP contract, which will see 20,000 pharmacists, physios and other health staff recruited to work alongside GPs.
Practices are banding together to provide better care and a wider range of services in primary care networks.
We are now asking every part of the country to chart their own course for implementing its key measures, building on the progress they have already made, and in partnership with their local partners, staff, communities and MPs.
As a condition of receiving Long Term Plan funding, all major national programmes and every local area across England will be required to set out how they will contribute to improve outcomes and tackle health inequalities over the next five and ten years.
I encourage MPs across England to discuss with their local NHS the case for change and to support them in improving the health and well-being of constituents in the years to come.
The NHS can also help to tackle some of society’s most pressing issues, recognising that hospitals and other services are ‘anchor institutions’ in our communities.
For example, one in five people in Blackpool work for the NHS, and the health service must ensure there are ladders of opportunity for children to what are often some of the best jobs in town.
We need to think about the wider role we can play on the issues that matter to your constituents. In London, the NHS has just appointed its first Clinical Director for Violence Reduction, surgeon Martin Griffiths.
The health service is also looking at how we can reduce air pollution, given that we have over 2,000 GP practices and 248 hospitals located in toxic air zones.
The trust placed in the health service by patients, their families and the public is a huge responsibility, and we take that immensely seriously.
We want to work with you to repay that trust by continuing to deliver improvements in care and treatment for your constituents and across the whole country.
Simon Stevens is Chief Executive of NHS England