The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
- NHS long-term plan: Full coverage
- Top buried land-grab policy: NHS could take over key public health functions
- Top unlikely new regulation: Professional registration for NHS managers
- Top holding policy on workforce: NHS to incentivise more doctors to become generalists
- Top good news for digital GP providers: Every patient to have ‘right’ to access new digital GP providers
One of the pre-emptive – let’s call it anticipatory – criticisms of the NHS long-term plan was that it would be short on detail. Some health leaders hankered for a granular plan for delivery – costed, staffed and timetabled to the nth degree – not an airy vision, wish list, or Forward View.
A parallel request was that the NHS shouldn’t sign up to a whole bunch of commitments it can’t and won’t deliver, thereby chipping away at credibility; on waiting times for example and the rollout of new services.
If the length of the document is equal to the number of commitments multiplied by the granularity of them, the long-term plan perhaps falls somewhere between two extremes.
At 136 pages, it’s a lot longer than 2014’s Forward View (41 pages), in the same ball park as 2000’s NHS Plan (147 pages) – but a meagre pamphlet compared to 2006’s Our Health, Our Care, Our Say at 236 pages (including the granular chapter 9, A timetable for action).
The long-term plan’s authors have listed some quite detailed intentions across a wide range of issues, but not signed up to many implementation milestones, within a five-or-10-year window, despite likely pressure from the Treasury for more specificity. It’s also done away with some of the wonkery (there’s few new care models here) in favour of a bit more pragmatism.
As our finance correspondent observes on the funding front – the long-term plan is lots about up-righting the NHS in the short term and providing a little hope.
Staffing is an acknowledged and uncomfortable weak point, and government is keen to point out that Baroness Dido Harding – the little-or-no-nonsense NHS Improvement chair – is already working on a new training budget wishlist to put in front of the Treasury ahead of its 2019 spending review.
Officials have avoided signing up to any trajectory for meeting the existing core waiting time standards – apparently justified by the fact the targets will be changed, anyway, under the ongoing review, to report once this winter winds itself up. The plan says new targets will be in place by October, which is extremely ambitious, and will soon raise the question of when those ones will be met.
With a flurry of local, system and national planning now about to kick off, there could soon be renewed attempts – from government and/or within the service – to give it some tighter numbers and deadlines to work to.