I am proud that seventy years ago, this country became the first in the world to establish the principle that no one – rich or poor, young or old – should ever have to worry about affording good healthcare. In creating our National Health Service, we said something very important about our values as a society. I am certain the celebrations that will mark its 70th anniversary this year will show these principles matter as much today as they ever have. This mandate is therefore fundamentally about consolidation and renewal. We want to uphold the qualities that have made the NHS so integral over the last 70 years, while also helping to define the future for a healthcare system in the face of rapid and ongoing social, demographic and technological change. As set out in our manifesto, the aspiration must be for exceptional healthcare, whenever, wherever, delivered by an NHS with the money, buildings and people it needs.
The most immediate challenge is managing the increased demand on our healthcare system. The NHS at 70 is seeing more people, more quickly than at any point in its history, including nearly half a million more being treated within 18 weeks of referral compared to five years ago.
Providing timely access to health services is a key part of the promises made when the NHS was first established – and despite more people being seen within agreed timeframes, we are seeing a number of hospitals struggling to meet these core performance standards overall. The Government therefore expects the NHS to deliver the actions set out in the NHS Planning Guidance for 2018-19 – in full – as key steps towards fully recovering performance against core access standards. This means treating a quarter of a million more patients in A&E, halving the number who have the longest waits for treatment and working towards reducing the number of patients waiting overall. The NHS will receive an additional £2.8 billion between 2017-18 and 2019-20, taking NHS funding to over half a trillion pounds from 2015 to 2020, but with these increases comes a clear responsibility for the NHS to minimise waste and make best use of its resources.
Secondly, therefore, this mandate outlines the contribution we expect NHS England to make, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care and others, to improving productivity. It will do this by delivering the NHS’s own 10 Point Efficiency Plan and by reducing unwarranted variation.
Thirdly, the mandate will support NHS England in meeting the commitments it has made with wider system partners to deliver real service transformation in the key areas of mental health, primary care, and cancer. By 2020 these changes will enable the NHS to provide better access to more responsive, more patient-centred, and more sustainable services that will drive improved outcomes in all three areas. Fourthly, as it approaches its 70th anniversary, the NHS must equally be bold in reshaping its services to meet the needs of an older and increasingly frail population, including embracing the opportunities presented by new technologies.
This means pressing ahead with the ambitious plans being developed through Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships, with the creation of new, integrated care systems as a way of delivering more joined up, co-ordinated health and social care across communities. Finally, as the UK approaches the point of leaving the European Union, the mandate asks NHS England to play its full part, with its system partners, to ensuring a smooth and orderly withdrawal in the best interests of patients. It is also vital the NHS supports the many EU nationals making an enormous contribution to our health and care services. And that is because the NHS, ultimately, is nothing without its people. Their expertise, energy and dedication means that our healthcare system has again been rated the best in the world by the Commonwealth Fund, and with 86,000 fewer people harmed between 2013 and 2016 as a result of improvements in safety standards.
Above all, therefore, this mandate acknowledges the extraordinary work being done, day in, day out, to maintain the highest standards of care for patients up and down the country. We will continue to support the 1.3 million NHS staff in doing so – ensuring that, in this milestone year, the NHS not only renews its commitment to equity, but also pursues excellence in everything it does.
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP Secretary of State for Health and Social Care