It has been a while in the waiting, but today we see the full detail of the NHS’ Long Term Plan. There is lots to welcome; we offer our ongoing collaboration to help make the strong vision set out in this plan a reality.
More and more of us are living with one, and increasingly multiple, long-term conditions. It is vital, therefore, that we reshape care around helping people manage their health and live as well as possible. This means delivering responsive, personalised services in our communities, supported by rapid access to specialist and hospital care whenever it’s required.
Our Taskforce on Multiple Conditions, in partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Charity, recently published research in to the experience of people living with more than one long-term condition. What was striking was that people didn’t speak in terms of their individual diagnoses – instead they spoke about the impact to their day to day lives of the losses they face that make living with ill health worse. Things like reduced mobility, which can limit social connectedness, which in turn can affect mental health. And they told us about missed opportunities to intervene.
Meeting these needs means the NHS working in partnership with others to help everyone in our communities maximise their health and wellbeing. We know organisations like ours have an important part to play. We're looking forward to working with old and new partners to help support the delivery of this vision for health and wellbeing, for the 15 million people living with long term conditions that we represent.
The vision in this plan provides an opportunity to bring together the clinical and non-clinical, to make care more personalised, less disjointed, and more effective in helping us to stay well. Social prescribing is a good example of this, one of many preventative interventions that help people live well and at the same time can reduce demand for health and care services. When delivered as part of effective care and support planning, social prescribing can improve access to self-management support needed by so many, helping to build coping skills to maintain independence. This broad understanding of prevention needs to carry through into local implementation.
We know the real work for the NHS is just beginning; as always, implementation will be the litmus test of the plan: policy is worth little if it does not impact practice. However, there is a hard road ahead for those faced with turning today’s Plan into reality and there are no short cuts or quick fixes. This work must involve and engage people who use services, volunteers who contribute to our health and care system, and the voluntary and community organisations who have so much evidence, insight and experience in service planning and provision.
The £20bn boost to our health funding is welcome and essential but money alone isn’t enough. We need people, so the forthcoming workforce strategy now needs to rise to the occasion with a robust and ambitious plan. We also need social care and public health services that are fit for purpose and sustainable. Without proper investment these two of the three ‘legs of the stool’ are still seriously unstable and close to collapse. Government must urgently remedy these issues with new investment in the Spending Review and a long term settlement in the Social Care Green Paper.
The long term plan delivers a promising vision for a future health and care system; we now need a long term and visionary settlement for the people and the broader system funding that will deliver it.