Doctors and NHS leaders have broadly welcomed the launch of the NHS Long Term Plan, but there have been warnings that ambitions may be limited by staffing and implementation.
Prof Derek Bell OBE, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Chair in Acute Medicine at Imperial College London, noted in PharmaTimes that “the intention to strengthen prevention is welcome“, and supported the Government’s position that it would “free up much needed funding and staff resource which could be used elsewhere in the NHS“.
While agreeing that “a more integrated, system approach would help deliver public health objectives“, Prof Bell called for the preventative health budget to be ring-fenced.
However, he was clear that “this policy must be backed by a high quality workforce“, and that ambitions must be achievable, meaning “NHS England must ensure that it does not leap head first into new or additional measures in underperforming areas, without understanding why outcomes aren’t as good as expected“.
Chris Hopson, Chief Executive of NHS Providers (the trade body which represents NHS trusts), echoed this, saying “we must avoid an undeliverable wish list that makes too many promises as over promising sets the NHS up to fail“.
He said that trusts “recognise the need to transform the way they provide care to reflect 21st century health and care needs“, but that “the funding settlement – while welcome – does little more than cover rising costs and demand…after the best part of a decade of austerity, there’s a lot of catching up to be done – both in terms of performance against the main NHS targets, and finance“.
Echoing the concerns of many, he identified staff shortfalls as “what trust leaders current describe as their biggest problem“. With concerns that Brexit will only exacerbate existing problems in this area, his strongest message was that “this plan cannot be delivered whilst trusts still have 100,000 workforce vacancies. We need urgent action to solve“.