Briefing: NHS Long Term Plan
The NHS Long Term Plan was launched in January to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the service.
It aims to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes and sets out how the £20.5 billion budget settlement for the NHS, announced by the Prime Minister in summer 2018, will be spent over the next 5 years.
While the plan has drawn criticism over whether it is realistic given current NHS staffing issues, it does include many references to voluntary sector involvement throughout and has been broadly welcomed by representative bodies.
Encouragingly, the plan seems to focus the efforts of the voluntary sector in places where it can be effective.
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The plan outlines many opportunities for organisations to have their say in NHS decision making.
At a local level, each Integrated Care Systems (ICS) will include a partnership board which voluntary sector representatives will be invited to join.
Patients groups and the voluntary sector will be consulted on whether the local health service and its partners are genuinely providing joined up, personalised and anticipatory care.
Nationally, an NHS Assembly will be established in early 2019 and will include representatives from the VCSE sector, as well as national clinical, patient and staff organisations; the NHS Arm’s Length Bodies (ALBs); and frontline leaders from ICSs, STPs, trusts, CCGs and local authorities.
The assembly will meet regularly and use its frontline experience to advise NHS England and NHS Improvement as part of the ‘guiding coalition’ to implement the Long Term Plan.
Support for specific conditions
The voluntary sector will have a key role to play in social prescribing and self-management. In particular, it will be offered the opportunity to contribute to a menu of evidence-based interventions that will be used to reduce health inequalities.
Dementia, end-of-life support, stroke recovery, cardiovascular disease and mental health are all areas where volunteering is set to play a key supporting role.
However, the most notable part of the plan is to double the number of NHS volunteers.
The plan states that staff, patients and volunteers can benefit from well-designed initiatives. It also recognises the role that volunteering plays – especially when it comes to younger volunteers. The Helpforce programme will receive £2.3 million in NHS England funding to scale successful volunteering programmes.