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The NHS Long Term Plan

The NHS Long Term Plan

Many clinical negligence cases are the devastating consequence of underfunding and stretched resources within the NHS. However, on 7 January 2019, the government released the NHS Long Term Plan – a 10 year strategy aiming to address these issues, inject some much needed cash into our healthcare system and improve key areas in which patients suffer the most. The government has pledged an additional £20.5 billion per year to NHS England by 2023 and the NHS Long Term Plan now sets out where this money will be focused.

So should we now expect an improvement in the quality of care provided by the NHS?

A huge focus of the plan is to take pressure off our hospital system which is currently under a huge amount of strain. The plan aims to do this firstly by focusing on prevention of illness – smoking, obesity and alcohol will be specifically targeted with smoking cessation and weight management services being offered as well as access to Alcohol Care Teams. Secondly, the plan will alleviate the burden on hospitals by increasing funding to GP practices and community care by £4.5 billion per year.

Another focus of the plan will be on “a strong start in life”, concentrating on issues such as neonatal care, learning disabilities and childhood cancer. At JMW we see many avoidable neonatal injuries and it is therefore reassuring to hear that the NHS aims to tackle this issue head on by ensuring all trusts offering maternal care will become part of the Maternal and Neonatal Health Safety Collaborative, among other measures. 

The plan also intends to confront major health problems including heart disease, mental health, dementia and cancer and will hand more control to patients through developed technology such as the NHS app allowing patients greater control over their own healthcare.    

This all sounds very promising but the proposals have already come in for some criticism.

Some have referred to the plan as too ambitious given the current staffing crisis in the NHS. Given that one in 11 posts are vacant, it is questionable whether the NHS has the manpower required to deliver the improvements envisaged by the plan. 

The second issue to be raised is funding and where these huge increases in spending will be coming from. While the plan is supposedly to involve no increase to people’s taxes, with the extra funding being taken partially from the ‘Brexit dividend’, concerns have been raised that this dividend is by no means a guarantee and economic growth is questionable in light of Brexit. It has therefore been suggested that, in order to spend big on the NHS, increased taxation may be inevitable. Furthermore, the funds will only be provided to frontline healthcare, meaning cuts are likely to be seen elsewhere. Councils are to receive a 4% cut next year and funding for the social care system remains uncertain.

In conclusion, only time will tell as to whether the new proposals will improve our healthcare system and ultimately lead to a reduction in negligence cases seen in our department, or if increased strain in other areas of healthcare may simple shift the issue.

 

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