“Ed Miliband’s commitment to invest £12.5 billion in the health service over five years is a welcome piece of the jigsaw on future NHS funding, but only part of the picture. We will wait for the whole image to emerge when Labour set out their spending plans. It is vital, for example that investment in health services is matched with a settlement in social care that allows a similar, much needed transformation.
“This early and clear commitment is a sign that politicians have taken on board calls to address the challenges facing the NHS and social care. In the 2015 Challenge Manifesto, published earlier this month, the most influential coalition of health and care bodies called for adequate funding for the NHS so that services could be transformed to better meet 21st century needs. More of the same is not an option. So, we asked for longer term funding and a transition fund of at least £4 billion in new money spread over two years.Today’s announcement overlaps with these asks and begins a process by which we can engage in a real debate about the future of health and care.
“The very nature of health service delivery means that most NHS spending goes on staff costs – on nurses, GPs, speech therapists, midwives, oncologists, porters, cleaners and all the other professions that make up the NHS team. So it is right that money for service transformation is targeted at ensuring we have more staff with the right skills working in the right places. Often this is in the community, and includes GPs, community-based nurses, mental health specialists, and staff who can help people live more healthily, for longer, in their own homes. Linking transformation to staffing needs to be done in ways that will support local models and the numbers announced today should reflect local plans rather than a top-down allocation of posts.
“No matter how big the pot, a transition fund alone cannot and will not deliver the extent of change needed to tackle the challenges facing the NHS and social care. We need the next government to commit to making much faster progress towards implementing new payment mechanisms that support integrated, personalised care and reward good outcomes for patients, not just activity. And we need the stability which a 10-year funding settlement for health would offer, creating a framework for the kind of change which NHS leaders are chomping at the bit to deliver for patients and local communities.
“What we are missing, however, is a firm commitment from all political parties to ensure none of their proposals will impose yet another top-down structural re-organisation. It is vital that the health service has the stability to implement service changes that reflect local people’s needs and wishes, and take account of the local landscape.
“We have been very clear that the time for action is now. Ed Miliband has today made a powerful speech, which contains much promise. Once the applause from conference delegates has faded, it is vital that he and other politicians move swiftly from words to deeds.”