Innovation and changeDigital TransformationSector responds to NHS Long Term Plan

Sector responds to NHS Long Term Plan

Following the release of NHS England’s Long Term Plan – click here for more details – which puts digital at the heart of a new prevention-focused 10-year outlook, a number of organisations have been responding to the detail.

Overall, there has been plenty of criticism of the Plan, centred around workforce issues, the digital transformation aspect has received a mixed response. It has been welcomed by some parties – but only if funding is maintained and not pulled into other areas of the NHS and the culture shift needed is put in place.

Simon Wallace, Chief clinical information officer at Nuance Communications said: “This year, the NHS must demonstrate how it can encourage a culture shift to ensure that technology is being used to effectively boost efficiency, improve patient care and reduce the stress and burnout seen across the healthcare profession. To achieve this, it is important that budget allocated to digital health is utilised in this way, and not clawed back to fund other reactive needs, such as winter pressure.

“Promised budgets for digital technology must remain and – should we manage to do so – changes in management will be the next key step. The introduction of digital technologies will require training and support – helping Trusts ensure the technology and new approaches are embedded and adopted.

“With the proposed backing, the NHS will be able to increase the adoption of electronic patient records, integrate patient data in a meaningful way and link with social care systems to provide a complete citizen overview – helping clinicians provide better services at the point of care. This time, and this announcement also means global digital exemplar Trusts – and their fast followers – have the chance to demonstrate they are the world leaders in harnessing digital technology to improve the delivery of patient care. This is a unique moment in NHS history.”

Missed opportunity

However, while GP and community care is to get £4.5bn of the £20bn NHS ‘birthday gift’, it doesn’t cover other areas such as training and public health, which is disappointing for local government. The money made available to councils to pay for initiatives such as smoking cessation and healthy weight programmes is being cut by more than 4% next year once inflation is taken into account.

What’s more, the government has yet to publish its green paper on social care despite promising to do so in 2017. Councils and care homes have warned care homes and home help services for the elderly and adults with disabilities are at risk because of insufficient funding.

Responding to the NHS Long Term Plan, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “We are pleased the NHS Long Term Plan sets out an ambition to build a new service model for the 21st century with health bodies working in partnership with local government.

“The plan has a much needed focus on prevention, early support and reducing health inequalities as well as promising investment in primary, community and mental health services. The focus on giving children the best start and on caring for older people in their own homes is right and should complement social care and wider services provided through councils and others.

“However the ambition set out can only be fully realised if adult social care and public health services in councils are also properly funded.

“We feel this is a missed opportunity for the Government to also launch its long-awaited adult social care green paper and proposals for the sustainable funding of these services.

“To help the NHS make its extra funding go further and alleviate the pressures on the health service, it is essential that the Government plugs the £3.6 billion funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 and reverses the £600 million in reductions to councils’ public health grants.

“The current system of social care is unsustainable and will buckle under the weight of demand unless the Government urgently invests in these essential services, which protect health, prevent sickness and are the surest way to reduce hospital admissions.”

Supplier perspective

Suppliers of technology solutions to the healthcare system have also been sharing mixed views about the Plan. Most recognise the value of having a plan and an element of long-term planning (even if details are lacking), but there does seem to be an agreement that there are missed opportunities.

Richard Betts, CEO of Local Government, Servelec commented: “We welcome the Government’s new 10-year plan for the NHS, especially its focus on mental health and community, but I would’ve liked to see more of a focus on the need for a fully integrated social care system that targets care within the community – where we can reduce the strain on primary and secondary care.

“Due to underfunding and a lack of integration, we are seeing the elderly community admitted to hospital and receiving acute care, when it is not always the best solution, for both them, and for the NHS, and this is the same for many people with mental health problems.

“The lack of the social care green paper, which was promised in order to set out its strategy on securing better and substantive care going forward, has once again been delayed indefinitely. This has resulted in a non-committal feeling from the government when it comes to plans to improve the service – which often feels like the underfunded and forgotten ‘sibling’ of the NHS.

“In the 10-year plan, there has been little said about a provision between youth services and mental health trusts. I firmly believe that it’s important that the Government addresses how a joined-up approach with social care is needed to improve the current service for young people dealing with mental health problems in the UK. We need to build a stronger network of health and social care support from early childhood. In order for this to truly work, a smoother approach to sharing data and information about patients between healthcare and social care organisations must be implemented.

“With this comes a requirement to streamline the data shared between health and social care. For mental health issues, data needs to be readily shared and a need for systems to talk to one another is vital. However, without a proper plan in place, or without the investment required for full reform, integration within these services is unlikely to happen swiftly through plans and promises alone.

“Technology providers need to step up and offer better solutions to improve interoperability between NHS services, and offer that crucial joined-up approach between health care and social care.”

What are your thoughts on the NHS Long Term Plan? Let us know by emailing us at info@govtechleaders.com.

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