The NHS has launched a new ten-year plan, which could save up to 500,000 lives by prioritising prevention.
Prime Minister, Theresa May, said that the new plan is a means of “reshaping the NHS around the changing needs of patients.” Access to funding has been increased for several departments, with the most significant injections directed towards GP, mental health and community care services.
Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, launched the new strategy alongside the Prime Minister and outlined plans to increase spending on community health, GP services and mental health. Currently, these areas account for less than 25% of the total NHS budget, but new measures will see a third of the extra £20 billion of funding allocated to the NHS go towards these three key sectors. Mr Stevens described the plan as a “practical, costed and phased route map.” The mental health budget will increase by £2.3 billion and GP and community care services will be allocated an extra £4.5 billion.
Despite promising funding boosts, the government’s new strategy has been criticised by the opposition party, unions and some health professionals. Labour said that there was still a shortfall in funding, while Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society of Acute Medicine, said that he was “staggered” by the focus of the strategy, given the current problems faced by hospitals. Research suggests that many hospitals are missing cancer care, A&E and surgical targets.
Prof Carrie MacEwen, from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, welcomed the government’s ambition, but unions said that the targets were unrealistic given existing staffing shortages.
In addition to boosting funding for areas of the NHS, Mr Stevens also confirmed targets to increase recruitment. He outlined plans to train 25-50% more nurses and revealed that there were five new medical colleges waiting to train doctors. Mr Stevens also said that it was crucial to look after existing members of staff better to improve retention rates and prevent workers from having to put up with “huge stress and pressure.”