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Health leaders outline priorities for next government to ‘stabilise’ primary care

Health leaders outline priorities for next government to ‘stabilise’ primary care

The next government must commit to stabilising primary care by increasing investment and reviewing targets that fail to reflect the sector, a manifesto by NHS Confederation has urged.

The report published today, Building the health of the nation: priorities for a new government, sets out what health and care leaders want the next government to prioritise – ahead of the election expected this year.

Based on engagement with its networks, the organisation identified five ‘critical’ factors that its members have said will help to secure the future of the service:

  1. Put the NHS on a more sustainable footing, with no top-down structural reform in England for the next parliament, and a 12-month stabilisation plan in England that mobilises focus and resources around recovering NHS performance, including backlogs in primary, community and mental health services;
  2. Increase NHS capital spending and reform how the capital regime operates;
  3. Commit to fund and deliver the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan for England, alongside an equivalent plan for social care;
  4. Provide more care closer to home by enabling local health systems to proportionately increase investment into primary care and community-based services, mental health and social care;
  5. Deliver a strategy for national health.

The report said health and care leaders were being hindered by ‘short term, unpredictable funding streams’ and were therefore unable to make ‘the long-term plans necessary to integrate care and reduce inequalities’.

It called for longer-term funding cycles aligned between the Department of Health and Social Care, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, and NHS England, to allow integrated care system (ICS) leaders in England to make the best use of their allocated funds, to plan for the long term and to innovate.

In addition, NHS Confederation said political focus and resources needed to ‘shift’ to ensure more people can access care closer to home in their community and at an earlier stage of illness.

‘To achieve a decisive shift upstream, a baseline of current investment in preventative care should be established from which progress can be measured and benchmarked,’ the report added.

A review and reduction of the number of central targets and the administrative burden on local health and care services was also required, with a re-balancing between acute metrics and issues affecting mental health, community, primary care and prevention.

The report suggested the establishment of a framework by which preventative investment across health and local government can be measured in a consistent and comparable way. This should allow implementation of the Hewitt recommendation to increase spend on prevention over the lifetime of parliament, including to resource new models of care and transformation, particularly out of hospital, it said.

‘The next government needs to commit to support primary care further, including an expansion of delivery of care at scale by securing the future of primary care networks (PCNs), building on the success of GP federations in many areas and a commitment to establishing primary care provider collaboratives,’ the report added.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘There is no shortage of analysis and advice about what the NHS needs. This is why we have worked with health leaders across our membership to identify the five most critical priorities for the next government that will set the NHS on a path to recovery and sustainability.

‘Yes, this is about government investment – especially in capital and workforce – but it is also about the government resisting the temptation to waste time and energy on unnecessary reorganisation, about the government working differently to improve the nations’ health and about enabling our members to deliver on the long-delayed aspiration to move resources into prevention, primary and community-based care.’

All political parties will be challenged to demonstrate a ‘clear vision and hard cash for nursing, the NHS and social care’ ahead of the next general election, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing recently pledged.

The NHS Confederation is a membership body that represents NHS trusts, primary care providers and integrated care systems.



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