Can the NHS get the right mechanisms in place to achieve its new long term plan?

Can the NHS get the right mechanisms in place to achieve its new long term plan?

The NHS Long Term Plan was published this week.  It sets out a raft of policy changes and priorities for the next 10 years, all with the intention of delivering a more efficient, effective and sustainable NHS.  How will we know whether the Long Term Plan is on track to meet its aims and what adjustments are needed if it is not?

Over Summer 2018, the NHS secured a significantly more favourable financial settlement than other parts of public spending. In exchange, the Long Term Plan includes five new tests of whether taxpayers’ investment is achieving maximum value for money from the NHS.  These are:

Test 1: The NHS (including providers) will return to financial balance

Test 2: The NHS will achieve cash-releasing productivity growth of at least  1.1% per year

Test 3: The NHS will reduce the growth in demand for care through better integration and prevention

Test 4: The NHS will reduce unjustified variation in performance

Test 5: The NHS will make better use of capital investment and its existing assets to drive transformation

These tests are ambitious yet highlight desirable, and indeed essential, steps on the way to ultimately improving the health and lives of us all.  Meeting these tests will require every part of the system – including patients – doing things differently. And this implies changing the incentives in the system towards more integrated and collaborative working, while also driving improvements in financial performance, ensuring care quality and safety standards are met, empowering a motivated and skilled workforce, empowering patients, and embracing innovation.

Transparency on the performance and progress against the tests will be important. This requires objective monitoring, evidence-based learning, and strong leadership to use that learning to inform necessary adjustments in the system. Although the Plan does not say how such monitoring and evidence-based learning will happen, there is a clear opportunity now to get the right mechanisms in place to generate the essential evidence NHS leaders are going to need to inform their future decisions if they are to meet the tests.  

Frontier’s health and social care practice works widely across the NHS, advising on the economics of care, including policy design and evaluation.

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