Simon Stevens’ call for bold action to make NHS fit for future

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens today called for bold action on prevention, the redesign of care and efficiency to help the NHS through the most challenging period in its history.

In his first speech since the general election – and sharing a platform with the Prime Minister – Mr Stevens said:
“We’ve just come out of a general election debate that has once again confirmed a fundamental consensus between citizens of this country – on the unique importance of the NHS to the life of our nation, and as the embodiment of the promises we make to each other, across the generations.”

Referring to the NHS Five Year Forward View, he says: “Last Autumn the Health Service came together to chart a shared direction for our country’s NHS. “Patients groups, caring professionals, national leaders – uniting behind the NHS’ own ‘manifesto’ for the next five years. It’s a plan for better health, more personalised care, and a financially sustainable Health Service, which we’re now getting going on.”

Pointing to the realities of current service pressures, he argues that the Health Service is entering probably the most challenging period in its 67 year history. Alongside action this year to stabilise NHS finances, Stevens argues for a new partnership between the public, the government and the health service, involving concrete and sometimes controversial action on three broad fronts – prevention, care redesign, and efficiency linked to new investment.
On prevention, while life expectancy is at its highest ever, smoking still explains half of the inequality in life expectancy between rich and poor, binge drinking costs at least £5 billion a year, and junk food, sugary fizzy drinks and couch potato lifestyles are normalising obesity. So we need wide ranging action – as families, as the health service, as government, as industry, using the full range of tools at our disposal.

On care, Stevens argues the mission-critical task over the next five years is fundamental redesign of how services are provided, blurring the old boundaries between GP and hospital care, physical and mental health services, health and social care. One of the best ways of getting this personalisation and integration will be to give patients and their families more clout over the support they receive. He points to the first wave of 29 ‘Vanguard’ areas across England, covering five million patients, launched six weeks ago.

On efficiency, Stevens notes that the Economist Intelligence Unit has shown that we already have a lean and efficient health service compared with just about every other industrialised country. But we still have big quality and efficiency differences – between different parts of the country, between different hospitals, and between different local clinical commissioning groups.

On funding, Stevens says: “Just like every health service around the world with a growing population and an aging population, we’re going to need more funding, year by year, not just in 2020.
“We’ve said at least £8 billion a year in real terms by the end of the decade. But precisely how much, and with what phasing, will partly depend on how radical and how successful we are on prevention, on care redesign, and on our broader efficiency programme. And we’ll need careful and disciplined phasing of our ambition to expand services – be it improved cancer care, mental health, primary care, seven day services – all of which we want to do.”

Read full speech here: