The much anticipated long term plan is out. Entitled simply the NHS Long Term Plan, the document is a 134 page list of priorities for the next decade.
As expected, the document has a lot to say about prevention and self-care and restates long-running ambitions to see more care provided out of hospital. The plan also underlines the determination to accelerate the development of integrated care systems (ICS): all areas of the country are expected to implement ICS within two years. It also sets ambitious timescales for primary care networks (PCN) – clusters of general practice and other services covering local populations of 30,000-50,000 – with the expectation that all practices will be part of a PCN by April this year. GP network contracts will be used alongside existing GMS contracts to incentivise practices to provide services collaboratively.
NHS England is emphasising that while the long term plan is an “important milestone”, the job of turning it into detailed operational plans will fall to CCGs and other local organisations.
NHE England and NHS Improvement published ‘preparatory’ guidance in late December to encourage commissioners to get local planning under way. It doesn’t provide much new information and with CCGs still awaiting 2019/20 budget allocations most are likely to wait a bit longer for the “full guidance” due this month. The preparatory guidance is useful mainly for its calendar of planning deadlines that CCGs will be expected to hit and for the clues it contains about the direction of national policy. In this brief summary of the guidance and what it’s likely to mean for primary care we see renewed emphasis on cooperation at system level to develop integrated care systems (ICS), and increased pressure on commissioners to nurture the primary care networks that will be building blocks of ICS.
More than two years on from publication of the GP Forward View (GPFV) it is perhaps inevitable that some of the shine has come off a document that got a warm reception.
Speakers at a PCC event to be held in Manchester in September can help practice managers and GPs rekindle that warm glow for a vision that promised to help them manage rising demand and other pressures.
NHS England’s operations director has warned that the five year investment plan announced in June must avoid the mistakes made when the health service last experienced a significant and sustained funding rise.