- Simon Stevens says NHS long-term plan won’t fully deal with workforce, capital and public health
- Says government has no “durable answer” on social care funding
- National director for urgent and emergency care “personally marking every A&E in the country” for winter
The NHS long-term plan will not “definitively” deal with staff training, capital or public health – and the government still has no “durable answer” for social care funding, Simon Stevens has said.
The NHS England chief executive was speaking at the organisation’s board meeting this morning, where he also said the document was likely to be published between 12 and 21 December.
Mr Stevens said that, in contrast to when the Five Year Forward View was developed in 2014, the NHS knew its revenue funding settlement for the next five years, thanks to the government’s announcement in the summer.
But he added that there were “a number of caveats” to this, specifically because budgets outside the NHS England revenue settlement would not be set until the spending review next year.
These include education and training – a major area of concern in the service at the moment – as well as NHS capital, and decisions about funding and protection of local government public health spend.
“The NHS long-term plan was never expected to and cannot definitively answer the questions on workforce training,” he said.
Mr Stevens said of social care that while “the interconnecting argument [between the NHS and social care] has come a long way in the last three-five years, what hasn’t moved is a settled national consensus at a durable future funding answer for social care services”.
He said he had been told the government might publish its green paper on social care in tandem with the NHS long-term plan, but he stressed this would be only a “green paper” - ie making proposals for discussion rather than fixing the problem.
These areas were “important things that will have to be got right in 2019”, Mr Stevens said.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, speaking to the Commons health and social care committee yesterday, said he wanted the social care green paper to be published by the end of the year, as well as the NHS long-term plan. He also said ”the cross Whitehall assumption for [funding of] the non-NHS [health] budgets is flat [real terms growth]”. This implies that education and training funding may not be further cut in real terms, but will not be increased.
Meanwhile, speaking about winter preparations, NHS England deputy chief executive Matthew Swindells said “the single biggest focus is on beds” – specifically freeing up beds and encouraging hospitals to open more. This would reduce occupancy to allow better flow from emergency departments, he said.
According to Mr Swindells, work to discharge and cut the stay of patients who were in hospital for a very long time had so far released 2,500 beds against a target of 4,000.
He added: “I think it is fair to say [national urgent and emergency care director] Pauline Phillip is personally marking every A&E in the country now.”
NHS England board meeting
28 November 2018