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NHS blueprint to meet changing needs of ageing population

12:00am | & Health

A MAJOR shake-up of the NHS, designed to make it fit for the future, has begun this week with the official launch of the “NHS Long Term Plan”.

The plan is a blueprint for how the NHS – which last year celebrated its 70th birthday ­– will be modernised and reshaped to meet the challenges of a changing society. It combines increased use of new technology with a shift of focus more towards preventative healthcare, with proactive measures to detect and treat illness earlier or prevent it from developing at all.

By tackling ‘major killer conditions’ it is hoped the Long Term Plan will save up to half-a-million lives and prevent an estimated 85,000 premature deaths each year. NHS leaders unveiling the plan said the measures it contains will help prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases, while more than three million people will benefit from new and improved stroke, respiratory and cardiac services over the next decade. Some of the main commitments within the plan include:

  • Opening a ‘digital front door’ to the health service, allowing patients to book online consultations with their GP if they want to, rather than having to travel to the surgery
  • Providing genetic testing for a quarter of people with dangerously high inherited cholesterol, reaching around 30,000 people
  • Giving mental health help to 345,000 more children and young people through the expansion of community-based services, including in schools
  • Using cutting edge scans and technology, including the potential use of artificial intelligence, to help provide the best stroke care in Europe, with more than 100,000 extra people each year accessing new and improved services
  • Investing in earlier detection and better treatment of respiratory conditions to prevent 80,000 hospital admissions. Smart inhalers will be piloted so patients can easily monitor their condition regardless of where they are
  • Ensuring every hospital with a major A&E department has ‘same day emergency care’ in place so that patients can be treated and discharged with the right package of support, without needing an overnight stay.

Such major change clearly comes at a cost and there is also a commitment to significantly increased funding for both physical and mental healthcare. A £4.5 billion package will help build a new NHS ‘service model’ across England, where health bodies work together to provide better, joined-up care in partnership with local government. This commitment to tackle major physical conditions comes alongside the biggest ever investment in mental health services, rising to at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24.

Launching the plan, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens (pictured) said: “The NHS has been marking its 70th anniversary, and the national debate has rightly centred on three big truths. There’s been pride in our health service’s enduring success, and in the shared social commitment it represents. There’s been concern – about funding, staffing, increasing inequalities and pressures from a growing and ageing population. And there’s also been legitimate optimism – about the possibilities for continuing medical advance and better outcomes of care.

“In looking ahead to the Health Service’s 80th birthday, this NHS Long Term Plan acts on all three of these realities. It keeps all that’s good about our health service and its place in our national life. It tackles head-on the pressures our staff face. And it sets a practical, costed, phased route map for the NHS’s priorities for care quality and outcomes improvement for the decade ahead.”

Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, added: “At the heart of the NHS are hard-working staff who pull out all the stops to care for patients every day. It is thanks to their dedication that the NHS is admired around the world and that it has taken great strides over the last seven decades.

“We need to build on these achievements and make the best use of the new investment to fundamentally reset how the NHS is run so that our growing and ageing population can get the right care at the right time and in the right place. Developed by those working within the NHS, the Long Term Plan sets out an exciting roadmap for how we will do this together for the benefit of patients.”

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