What is the long-term plan for the NHS?

Government claims half a million lives could be saved in next decade by focusing on prevention

(Image credit: (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images))

Prime Minister Theresa May and NHS England boss Simon Stevens will today publish a new long-term plan for the health service that they claim could save an additional 500,000 lives by 2029.

Described as a “blueprint to make the NHS fit for the future”, the long-awaited plan is expected to outline “a future in which genomics, cutting-edge surgery and artificial intelligence” revolutionise the service, and “every area of care is improved in return for the Government’s major funding boost”, says The Guardian.

May announced last year that NHS funding in England would increase from £115bn to £135bn by 2023-24.

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NHS bosses have already confirmed that a third of the additional funding will go on GPs, community care and mental health - part of moves aimed at curbing reliance on hospitals. Pledges on maternity care, mental health, elderly support and earlier detection and prevention of diseases are also expected to be included in the plan.

The renewed focus on prevention “will help prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases, while more than three million people will benefit from new and improved stroke, respiratory and cardiac services”, according to NHS England.

In addition, the Government says that the NHS workforce will be boosted, “with tens of thousands more doctors, nurses and other health professionals”, and waste cut through a series of measures including “ new digital techniques and making back-office savings of more than £700m”.

In an article on The Mail on Sunday, the prime minister wrote: “The launch of the NHS Long Term Plan marks an historic step to secure its future and offers a vision for the service for the next ten years, with a focus on ensuring that every pound is spent in a way that will most benefit patients. This will help relieve pressure on the NHS while providing the basis to transform care with world-class treatments.”

However, May has admitted that extra demand is preventing the NHS from reaching objectives on treating A&E patients within four hours, making two-month cancer diagnoses, and overall 18-week waiting times, reports Sky News.

“We’re slipping against the targets despite the fact we’re actually doing more, the demand is outstripping that,” she told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show.

The PM continued: “What the extra money enables us to do, what the long-term plan enables us to do is actually step back and say, ‘How do we ensure that the NHS continues to be one of the best health services in the world?’”

But the proposals have been condemned by the Labour Party, with shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth claiming that May is trying to “clear up a mess that she has made”.

“The funding isn’t sufficient and the staffing isn’t there,” he added. “The Tories have spent nine years running down the NHS. They have failed to recruit and train the staff desperately needed, leaving our NHS struggling with chronic shortages of over 100,000 staff.”

The Guardian reports that experts and doctors’ leaders have also warned that May and health boss Stevens’ vision risks being reduced to a set of “groundless aspirations” because of the NHS’s deepening staffing crisis, continued cuts to public health and limits to what the extra investment could achieve.

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