In a far-reaching speech made today in the West Midlands, NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens set out his vision for the NHS.
Mr Stevens said: “Last Autumn the Health Service came together to chart a shared direction for our country’s NHS. Patients groups, caring professionals, national leaders – uniting behind the NHS’ own ‘manifesto’ for the next five years.
It’s a plan for better health, more personalised care, and a financially sustainable Health Service. An NHS which at all times ‘thinks like a patient, and acts like a taxpayer’.
And now we’ve just come out of a general election debate that has once again confirmed a fundamental consensus between citizens of this country. On the unique importance of the NHS to the life of our nation. And as the embodiment of the promises we make to each other, across the generations.
So we have a plan, and we have backing for it. Founded on national pride in what the NHS represents. Tempered by the reality of current pressures on services. Propelled by an optimism that amazing medical advances lie within reach.
But to succeed over the coming five years we’re going to need a new partnership between the public, the government and the health service. So today here in the West Midlands let’s be clear about what this’ll take.
It means concrete, comprehensive, and sometimes controversial action on three broad fronts.
First, as a nation it’s time to get our act together on prevention.
Yes, life expectancy is its highest ever. But smoking still explains half the inequality in life expectancy between rich and poor – and two thirds of smokers get hooked as kids. Binge drinking costs at least £5 billion a year – in A&E admissions, road accidents, extra policing. Junk food, sugary fizzy drinks and couch potato lifestyles are normalising obesity – and as parents, a third of us can’t now spot when our own child is seriously overweight.
So we’ve got a choice. Condemn our children to a rising tide of avoidable diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer? And burden taxpayers with an NHS bill far exceeding an extra £8 billion by 2020? Or take wide-ranging action – as families, as the health service, as government, as industry. Using the full range of tools at our disposal.
It’s a no brainer – pull out all the stops on prevention, or face the music.
So the second of our mission-critical tasks over the next five years is fundamental redesign of how services are provided. Blurring the old boundaries between GP and hospital care, physical and mental health services, health and social care.
And one of the best ways of getting this personalisation and integration will be to give patients and their families more clout over the support they receive. If the NHS is a cradle to grave service, let’s give pregnant mums real choices about safe birthing options. Let’s ensure that people who die in hospital can do so at home if they prefer. And that for the parent whose child becomes sick on a Sunday, we’ve a more integrated seven day service, ending confusion about whether to call the GP, or 111 or 999, or go to A&E.
Six weeks ago we got going on redesigning care in 29 areas across England, covering five million patients. This morning I took the Prime Minister to see what it means here in the West Midlands.
So prevention and care redesign – over time they’ll both help with our third major challenge which is putting the NHS’ finances on a sustainable footing. But they’re not a quick fix, and they won’t be enough.
Even then – just like every health service around the world – with a growing population and an aging population we’re going to need more funding, year by year, not just in 2020.
We’ve said at least £8 billion a year in real terms by the end of the decade. But precisely how much, and with what phasing, will partly depend on how radical and how successful we are on prevention, on care redesign, and on our broader efficiency programme. And we’ll need careful and disciplined phasing of our ambition to expand services – be it improved cancer care, mental health, primary care, seven-day services – all of which we want to do.
None of this will be easy. In fact the Health Service is entering probably the most challenging period in its 67-year history.
We’ll certainly step up and play our part – but the NHS can’t do it alone. Because the NHS isn’t just a care and repair service, it’s a social movement. We’re going to need active support from patients, the public, and politicians of all parties. Support that we’re optimistic about getting.
Because there’s no nobler ambition, no higher calling, than advancing the health and supporting the wellbeing of all families, and all communities, across the length and breadth of this country.”