• NHS England chief says legal change ‘will speed us on the journey’ of implementing new plan
  • It would remove ‘impediments’ to integration
  • Funding deal is a ‘change of gear’

Simon Stevens has welcomed the prime minister’s suggestion that the NHS develop proposals for changes to the law, saying legislation could “speed us on the journey” of implementing the long term plan. 

Theresa May said yesterday she would consider proposals if they were put forward by the NHS. The Conservatives’ 2016 general election manifesto also said they would consider legal change, but since the party lost its Commons majority at that election, and with government focused heavily on Brexit, it has been considered highly unlikely.

The NHS England chief executive was speaking at the launch of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s report on health and care funding and reform today.

Mr Stevens said: “I particularly welcome the announcement by the prime minister yesterday that she was asking the National Health Service to work up proposals for consensus based adjustments to the legislation which government will consider, which will speed us on the journey that the forthcoming plan will establish.”

Mr Stevens said since the publication of the Five Year Forward View the service had developed a view of what an integrated health service needed to look like, and would “now need to accelerate and universalise that”. He said if there were “legislative impediments” to that, “they can over the medium term be addressed”.

It was probably the “first time ever” the NHS had been asked to develop its own legal change, Mr Stevens said, rather than something being “imposed”.

He did not say what kind of changes were needed.

On the funding deal, the NHS England chief said it meant “we have the certainty of a five year settlement which clearly represents a change of gear, a step up” from recent annual funding levels.

He said it was important to remember the “wider economic contribution the NHS makes to the success of this country”, and said the nation would not want to impose the additional cost of health insurance on business. The comments come amid a political row over the additional tax or borrowing required to pay for the deal.