Last week NHS England, along with other NHS organisations, published their independent “Five Year Forward View”, setting out their view of how the health service needs to change over the coming years.
This Forward View looked at how recent progress in the NHS can be built on. This progress has been considerable, with 2,500 more nurses; and 8,000 more doctors working in the NHS since 2010, helping to care for 1.3 million more outpatients and half a million more cancer patients.
The reforms have also made a real difference to Cornwall. I am pleased to have enabled the transfer of NHS budgets and decisions about how the money is spent to local family doctors that make up the new NHS Kernow. This devolution of decision making powers has been matched by increases in funding, secured by the Government’s decision to protect NHS spending within its long term economic plan. Funding for our NHS has been boosted by 4% in real terms since 2010, with areas underfunded during the Labour years, including Cornwall, being prioritised.
The Five Year Forward View makes some excellent recommendations as to what more can be done to support the NHS.
Recognising that people are living longer is the major challenge facing the NHS and the report charts a pioneering new approach to helping the increasing numbers of people needing help with long term health conditions. The Forward View argues that NHS should develop co-ordinated networks of care for individuals, tailored around their needs and delivered in their communities and, where possible, in their own home. I was delighted to see the Report cite work I have promoted that is led by Volunteer Cornwall and Age UK Cornwall that enables health and social care professionals and volunteers to work together so patients feel much happier and, crucially, healthier.
The Forward View puts a similar emphasis on organisations working together to prevent ill health from developing in the first place, calling for public health campaigns to reduce harmful behaviours like smoking and obesity to become an integral part of NHS operations. Again we have a real opportunity in this area. In 2012 the Government asked Cornwall Council and the NHS Cornwall to come together with public, private and voluntary sector partners to form the Cornwall Health and Wellbeing Board, tasked with drawing up joint strategies to improve health in Cornwall. This is precisely the sort of holistic, forward looking working that the Forward View says will be essential for the NHS to meet the needs of changing society.
NHS England make a further, essential, point. It stresses that decisions about the NHS will need to be taken ‘in the context of how the UK economy overall is performing’. You simply cannot divorce the need to secure our NHS from the need to grow our economy; it is the latter that enables the former. A thriving economy is the best guarantee we have of a thriving NHS, free at the point of use and delivering the high quality care we all desire.