The must read stories to start the year

Crystal clear

Happy new year!

Or is it?

HSJ’s experts have looked into their crystal balls and predicted what is in store as the NHS celebrates its platinum anniversary.

So, before the end of March, NHS England will make clear that the service will not hit the 95 per cent four hour accident and emergency target in 2018-19 or make any more than a marginal dent in the elective waiting list.

Meanwhile, the NHS’s financial plight will not meaningfully improve, efficiency asks will be eye watering and the Treasury’s grip will increase.

There will be rows and legal challenges over growing restrictions on drugs and treatments that NHS England declares “unaffordable” or of “low clinical value”.

Also in the commissioning sector, “accountable care” as a label within the NHS will die before the first new organisation gets going. On the provider side, alliances, chains and even mergers are back in favour.

This year will also be crucial for primary care (which may have its “Uber moment”) and mental health (which faces “a battle to protect its new, relative, wealth”.)

At the top of the shop, we predict Jeremy Hunt will remain health secretary for a while longer and “the merger which dare not speak its name between NHS England and NHS Improvement” will continue.

The editor sums up: “The NHS has known grimmer years than the one in which it will mark its 70th birthday, but probably not one that will feel as tough…

“HSJ apologises for the fact that many of our predictions will be about as welcome as being given the on-call shift on new year’s eve. There will be success and innovation in 2018, and the service is still developing broadly in the right direction. There will also (we trust) be time to celebrate the NHS’s achievements since 1948, which have seen it established unchallenged as the pride of the nation.”