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NHS Long-Term Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:56 pm on 18th June 2018.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 4:56 pm, 18th June 2018

With permission Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday of a new long-term funding plan for the NHS. The NHS was built on the principle that good healthcare should be available for everyone, whatever their background and whatever their needs. Seventy years on, it remains this country’s most valued public service: an institution that is there for every family, everywhere, at the best of times and at the worst. So no one in this House underestimates the importance of putting the NHS on a steady financial footing, not just for the sake of their constituents but also for their own families and loved ones. That is why I am proud today that this Government have announced their commitment to a long-term funding settlement for the NHS.

From vaccinations to IVF, to radiotherapy and to next-generation immunotherapies, the NHS has always been at the forefront of excellence in medicine, but as only the sixth universal healthcare system in the world, it has also come to symbolise equity both at home and abroad. Despite pressures in recent years, the Commonwealth Fund rates the NHS as the best healthcare system in the world, cancer survival rates are at a record high, stroke mortality is improving faster than almost anywhere else in the OECD and heart disease mortality rates continue to fall. All this is thanks to NHS staff who continue to work tirelessly, day in, day out to make it the world-class service it truly is.

But alongside advances in medicine, demographic pressures pose a potentially existential threat to the NHS as we know it. With the number of over-75s expected to increase by 1.5 million in the next 10 years, these pressures, far from reducing, will intensify. So in March the Prime Minister made the bold decision to commit to a 10-year plan for the NHS backed up by a multi-year funding settlement. Since then I have been working closely with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, and I can today announce that the NHS will receive an increase of £20.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24—an average of 3.4% per year growth over the next five years. The funding will be front-loaded with increases of 3.6% in the first two years, which means £4 billion extra next year in real terms, with an additional £1.25 billion cash to cope with specific pension pressures. Others talk about their commitment to the NHS, but this settlement makes it clear that it is this Government that delivers, and the details will shortly be placed in the Library of the House.

This intervention is only possible due to difficult decisions taken by the Government—opposed by many—to get our nation’s finances back in order and our national debt falling. Some of the new investment in the NHS will be paid for by us no longer having to send annual membership subscriptions to the EU after we have left, but the commitment that the Government are making goes further, and we will all need to make a greater contribution through the tax system in a way that is fair and balanced. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we will listen to views about how we do that and, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will set out the detail in due course. I want to pay particular tribute to the Chancellor, whose careful stewardship of the economy—alongside that of George Osborne before him—is what makes today’s announcement possible.

The British public also, rightly, want to know that every pound in the NHS budget is spent wisely. It is therefore critical to the success of the plan that the whole NHS improves productivity and efficiency, eliminates provider deficits, reduces unwarranted variation in the system so that people get the consistently high standards of care wherever they live, gets better at managing demand effectively, and makes more effective use of capital investment. We have set the NHS five key financial tests to show how it will play its part in putting the service onto a more sustainable footing, and I will expect the NHS to give this work the utmost priority. The tests will be a key part of the long-term plan.

However, this is more than just a plan to get finances back on track. In its 70th year, we also want our NHS to make strides towards being the safest, highest-quality healthcare system in the world. That means making a number of improvements to the treatment and care currently offered, including getting back on track to delivering agreed performance standards, locking in and further building on the recent progress made in the safety and quality of care, and transforming the care offered to our most frail and vulnerable patients, so that we prioritise prevention as much as cure. It also means transforming our cancer care, where we still lag behind France and Germany despite record survival rates. There is no family in this country that has not been touched by cancer, so the whole House will want to know how the NHS intends to make our cancer treatment and care among the best in Europe.

Many of our constituents worry about the mental health of their loved ones, families and friends. Again, I am proud of this Government’s record here: investing more in mental health than ever before and legislating for true parity as part of one of the biggest expansions in mental health provision in Europe. A critical part of the plan will be to decide what next steps will enable us to claim not just that we aspire to parity of provision with mental health, but that we are actually delivering it.

For our most vulnerable citizens with both health and care needs, we also recognise that NHS and social care provision are two sides of the same coin. It is not possible to have a plan for one sector without having a plan for the other. Indeed, we have been clear with the NHS that a key plank of its plan must be the full integration of the two services. As part of the NHS plan, we will review the current functioning and structure of the Better Care Fund to make sure that it supports that. While the long-term funding profile of the social care system will not be settled until the spending review, we will publish the social care Green Paper ahead of that. However, because we want to integrate plans for social care with the new NHS plan, it does not make sense to publish it before the NHS plan has even been drafted, so we now intend to publish the social care Green Paper in the autumn around the same time as the NHS plan.

Finally, there are two further elements crucial to putting the NHS on a sustainable footing. Alongside the 10-year plan, we will also publish a long-term workforce plan recognising that there can be no transformation without the right number of staff, in the right settings and with the right skills. This applies to both new and existing staff. As part of this, we will consider a multi-year funding plan for clinical training to support this aim. Similarly, we know that capital funding is critical for building the NHS services of the future and, again, we will consider proposals from the NHS for a multi-year capital plan to support the transformation plans outlined in the long-term plan.

Given the national economic situation, yesterday’s announcement is bold and ambitious. For the first time, national leaders of the NHS will develop a plan for the next decade that is clinically led, that listens to the views of patients and the public and that is backed by five years of core funding. We want to give the NHS the space, the certainty and the funds to deliver a comprehensive long-term plan to transform health and care and to ensure that our children and grandchildren benefit from the same groundbreaking health service in the next 70 years as we all have in the first 70.

That is the Government’s commitment to our NHS, and I commend this statement to the House.