Restarting and rebuilding the NHS
By Integrated Care Journal-
Public Policy Projects has created a new coalition of experts and stakeholders from across the health and care spectrum, designed to create a health service that boasts truly world-beating patient outcomes.
To be honest, the UK was not world beating for patient outcomes prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the country has suffered immensely since March 2020, and citizens will continue to face hardship in years to come unless we act now.
In 2022, Public Policy Projects (PPP) will bring together policy leaders, experts in healthcare, social care and life sciences for a once-in-a-generation project to create a world-beating vision for the delivery of universal healthcare in the 21st century. Using international examples of best practice, case studies of success from around the UK and innovative thought leadership, PPP intends to set out a blueprint to build a world-beating universal healthcare system.
As the UK looks to the future, there is an opportunity to evaluate the NHS Long Term Plan, assess the most impactful policies and reimagine what could be included within a new vision for the NHS. This coalition will reimagine opportunities for the future by creating world beating, actionable policies that will urgently restart clinical pathways, tackle the backlog and outline a recovery roadmap.
Discover more of the Restart and Rebuild Coalition on the PPP series page.
Legislative change on the horizon
The NHS has been undergoing a slow and steady move to better integrate services, breaking down long-established institutional silos. This has been aided by the creation of primary care networks and the merging of many clinical commissioning groups as well as NHS England and NHS Improvement joining together. However, the biggest changes will clearly come because of the Government’s new health and care bill.
The bill, Working together to improve health and social care for all, was introduced to Parliament earlier this year. It focuses on repealing many elements of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. Of particular focus is a shift of power held by NHS leaders to enhanced powers for government, in particular the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. These enhanced powers will mean that government will play a much larger role in the day-to-day running of the NHS, with responsibility over workforce and service reconfigurations.
The bill also includes a move to formalise the role of integrated care systems in the NHS by putting them on a legal footing that has been expected, and called for, over many years.
This shift provides us with an opportunity to rethink and reshape the way in which government can support rapid change in the NHS, particularly in a post-Covid-19 world in which the NHS will need to bounce back quickly to meet the needs of the population.
Restarting the NHS
The NHS restart programme that commenced in autumn 2020 has seen variable degrees of success, with numbers accessing primary care and outpatient services drastically reduced, and subsequent waves of the pandemic setting the recovery back. Due to this variation, it is clear that the impact of the pandemic on other previously unseen health areas, or those deemed to be non-urgent, might have been neglected.
The NHS is still overburdened in its response to the pandemic, with record numbers of people admitted to hospital because they have contracted Covid. However, with the mass vaccination effort well underway, the new, post-pandemic NHS is in sight.
That is why this is the right time to visualise and make the case for how the NHS should be rebuilt to best support the UK’s population and to:
- restart services to tackle the backlog of diagnoses that have been missed due to the pandemic
- share best practice that has been established throughout the pandemic and make the case for the long-term adoption of new models of care.
In a July 2020 letter to NHS trusts and others on the third phase of the NHS response to Covid, NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens and Chief Operating Officer Amanda Pritchard outlined the need to “lock in beneficial changes” that the pandemic had brought to the NHS. This should include the rapid scale-up of the use of data and digital, new ways of care delivery via telemedicine and an emphasis on health inequalities and prevention.
Rebuilding the NHS
The need for a complete reboot and reset comes over two years after the NHS Long Term Plan was released, containing headline-grabbing ambitions for people living with long-term conditions, such as preventing 150,000 strokes, heart attacks and dementia cases in the 10 years following the plan’s publication.
Clearly, restarting the NHS and the way we manage the health of the UK’s population does not just mean a return to the pre-pandemic status quo. In its August 2021 report, the Commonwealth Fund found that the UK ranked 10th out of 11 countries analysed in terms of patient outcomes. There is much work to be done to improve patient outcomes, which continue to lag across the UK.
Therefore, following work done to clear the initial Covid backlog it is essential we create our vision for a truly universal health system. This work will allow us to concentrate on what matters most to people living in the UK.
We cannot unlock the opportunities that lie ahead by merely recreating the failures of the past. The UK must embrace the latest technologies and innovative medicines. By building a coalition, focused on the restart and rebuild of the NHS, we will be able to provide health system leaders with clear direction and examples on how to lock in beneficial changes.
As we look to the future, there is a unique opportunity to reimagine the opportunities for our national system of healthcare provision. Our cross-party objective is to encourage political leaders to rethink their agendas and create a truly world-beating universal healthcare system. We hope you will join PPP as we seek to unlock the opportunities of the future, by embracing the best examples from around the world and applying them here in the UK.
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