NHS chief Simon Stevens has indicated that the Five Year Forward View delivery plan will remain central to the future of the healthcare system regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming general election.
Stevens indeed stated that there is no “version of reality” in which this document will not be prioritised.
The Chief Executive was speaking at a conference held by the King’s Fund think tank.
And Stevens predicted a great deal of change throughout the NHS system across the entirety of the UK.
“Without prejudging the outcome [of the election] – we will obviously be guided by the new government – it is pretty clear that the core operational priorities that the NHS set out in Next Steps document are the right things for us to be working on over the year ahead. There is no version of reality where we don’t need stronger primary care; no version of reality where we don’t need more expansive and resilient mental health services; no version of reality where we don’t need better health and social care integration – to name just three.”
While Stevens is obviously careful to avoid any form of party political affiliation, his comments perhaps give an indication of the likely direction of the election.
With shadow health secretary John Ashworth having stated that Labour will immediately review the sustainability and translation plans should the party win the general election, this seems to suggest that Stevens expects a Conservative government following the election.
Labour had indicated its intention to create a new body in order to review the 44 regions conducting sustainability and transformation initiatives.
Meanwhile, Stevens suggested that care improvements could require further negotiations with the government, as primary legislation may not be adequate.
“It is worth reflecting on those and the extent to which they are right for the next stages ahead or the extent to which we adjust,” Stevens asserted.
The chief executive also indicated that flexibility will be important for the healthcare system going forward.
“We have a fairly clear point of view on what needs doing and what can be done. We will take stock in the light of the election but for most of the frontline staff working across the NHS one of the big questions we have to get right is the workforce agenda; we need to raise our game there [and] we have a lot of work to do on capital and infrastructure.”
Stevens also suggested that the NHS will need to be a more nimble organisation in the future.
“The NHS needs to move decisively so that for the broader swathe of the country the integration agenda is made real and we are doing that through the accountable care systems”. He said these changes were not being made “out of expediency” but were “changes we would want to make even if we were living in the land of milk and honey, which we are not,” Stevens indicated.