Initial response to the Long Term Plan

Graphic illustration of hand putting pound coin into moneybox with heart and cross on outside with two pills lying next to it to show NHS financial management and sustainability

Sector response to the Long Term Plan has now been published and it has been welcomed in the main, though cautiously by some.

The NHS Long Term Plan has been designed to make the health service fit for the future. It aims to address the pressures facing the system and make extra funding stretch a far as possible. To do that the NHS needs to “accelerate the redesign of patient care to future-proof the NHS for the decade ahead”.

To do this, the NHS has:

  • Secured and improved funding, averaging 3.4% a year over the next five years
  • Gained wide consensus of the changes required. There has been consultation with patients’ groups, professional bodies and frontline NHS leaders, as well as the general public and organisations representing more than 3.5 million people
  • Built on the work of the Five Year Forward View with almost everything in the Long Term Plan already being implemented successfully somewhere in the NHS.

The Plan sets out:

  • How the NHS will move to a new service model in which patients get more options, better support, and properly joined-up care at the right time in the optimal care setting
  • New, funded, action the NHS will take to strengthen its contribution to prevention and health inequalities
  • The NHS’ priorities for care quality and outcomes improvement for the decade ahead
  • How current workforce pressures will be tackled, and staff supported
  • A wide-ranging and funded programme to upgrade technology and digitally enabled care across the NHS
  • How the 3.4% five year NHS funding settlement will help put the NHS back onto a sustainable financial path
  • The next steps in implementing the Long Term Plan.

Industry response

The industry has responded to the Plan. Mike Thompson, Chief Executive of the ABPI, said: The ABPI welcomes the NHS Long Term Plan’s ambition to save lives and improve patient outcomes through investing in innovation to prevent, detect and treat disease. We are excited by the focus on personalised medicine and genomics, where our industry can play a leading role in accelerating the benefits these advances offer to patients, the NHS and UK life sciences competitiveness.”

The ABPI also welcomes the endorsement of the Voluntary Pricing and Access Scheme (VPAS) as a key factor in improving patient access to innovative medicines. The VPAS is a deal between the Government, NHS and pharmaceutical industry which should see the most transformative and best value medicines made available on the NHS more quickly through better horizon scanning, earlier commercial dialogue, and faster appraisals from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

The Industry will also be working with the NHS to deliver the commitments in the Plan to tackle inappropriate variation and improve the UK’s clinical research capability, in line with the Government’s Life Sciences Sector Deal 2.

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult gave Pharmafield exclusive comment. He said: “The NHS 10 Year Plan puts the patient at the heart. We need to understand diseases at a granular level and diagnose and treat at that level as well as at an earlier stage. It’s really important to have the right targeted therapeutics to meet the needs.

“At Medicines Discovery Catapult, we work with industry to understand how data and diagnostics can better characterise diseases and help the industry to produce therapeutics to match those disease subsets and meet the needs of the patients.

“As with the recent second Life Science Industrial Strategy, it’s essential to access the capability of the NHS for medicines discovery. If we can make each hospital a research hospital, involve each patient in research if they agree, the UK has an immense opportunity to lead the world in medicines R&D.”

Cautious welcome

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) cautiously welcomed the commitment to prevention. Duncan Stephenson, Director of External Affairs at RSPH said: “While there is much to welcome from NHS England, in terms of secondary prevention, improving diagnosis and embracing new technologies, the best laid plans can go to waste if not backed up by sufficient funding.

“In 2014, the NHS Five Year Forward View promised a radical upgrade for public health and prevention, although this has to some degree been undermined by a series of assaults on Local Authority public health budgets. There is an urgent need for the Government to fund primary prevention, which has the potential to stop some of the killer diseases we face from developing in the first place.”

Ambitious but not without challenges

Richard Murray, Chief Executive at The King’s Fund called it “an ambitious plan”. He added: While NHS leaders have done what was asked of them within the constraints of the funding settlement provided by the Government, some significant pieces of the jigsaw are still missing. A number of decisions – notably on hospital waiting times – have been postponed, indicating that trade-offs and difficult choices lie ahead.

‘Whether the plan can be delivered relies critically on tackling workforce shortages. While the plan recognises this, commitments to increase international recruitment depend on decisions about immigration policy and we will need to wait for solutions until a new workforce plan is published later this year.”

He concluded that the Plan is “a significant step forward”, however, “a number of questions remain unanswered.” He finished by saying: “There should be no illusions about the scale of the challenge ahead.”