- Prime minister previews priorities in the NHS long term plan, to be published on Monday
- Mental health sector promised £2.3bn real terms growth over five years
- New mental health access targets to be tested and introduced
- NHS to make £700m in back office savings
- Full workforce plan not until “later this year”
- Big expansion of personal health budgets
The prime minister has confirmed headline priorities of the new NHS long term plan, including new “comprehensive” access targets for mental health, and a big expansion of personal health budgets.
The plan itself is due to be published on Monday, launched by Theresa May and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens.
A Number 10 announcement today identifies the priorities of the long term plan as: maternity, older people - including integration and personalised care, outcomes for major conditions, “increasing the NHS workforce”, digital access to services, and cutting waste - including “back office savings of more than £700m”.
Mental health is also singled out by Ms May, saying the sector will receive £2.3bn real terms funding growth over the next five years. This is more than a £2bn figure issued by government in October, but could still be insufficient to ensure mental health’s share of the total NHS pot grows. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has previously estimated this would require at least £2.5bn real terms growth.
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Today’s announcement said 350,000 more children and young people would have access to mental health services, though the baseline for this target is not clear. The 2015 Forward View for Mental Health promised access for “at least 70,000” more.
Number 10 also said the NHS would “for the first time ever… test and introduce comprehensive access standards for mental health”, though no more details have been given.
Priority services for expansion include 24 hour mental health crisis care, and specialist services for new and expectant mothers and for adults aged 18-25, who can face a “cliff edge” when they leave services for children only.
The government’s announcement also confirms there will be no major workforce plan issued alongside the NHS plan on Monday, as had initially been proposed. It says: “We are improving access to mental health, primary care and community services, with tens of thousands more doctors, nurses and other health professionals – a full workforce plan is expected later this year.”
Mr Stevens said in November the plan would not “definitively” deal with workforce, public health and capital issues, as these budgets depend on the government spending review later this year.
No detail has been given on the promise to make £700m in back office savings, although it is understood it does not include abolishing NHS Improvement. In November clinical commissioning groups were told to cut their admin spend by a fifth to save “more than £320m a year”; while NHS England and NHS Improvement are restructuring to cut costs classified as admin by 15 per cent.
On the expansion of personal health budgets, an ambitious new five year target will be set, aiming to take the current number of about 30,000 up to around 200,000.
The long term plan will set specific priorities for the NHS for the next five years and some improvement ambitions over a decade, responding to the government’s announcement in the summer of a five year funding settlement for the NHS England budget.
Ms May said the plan “marks an historic step to secure [the NHS’s] future and offers a vision for the service for the next ten years, with a focus on ensuring that every pound is spent in a way that will most benefit patients”.