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19 Sep 2023

Our Breakdown of the NHS Business Plan 2023/24

Our Breakdown of the NHS Business Plan 2023/24

The NHS England 2023/24 business plan is a comprehensive strategy that outlines the organisation's objectives for the upcoming year. This ambitious plan aims to enhance various aspects of healthcare services, including ambulance response times, primary care access, mental health services, and more. In this article, we'll explore the key priorities and strategies outlined in the plan to achieve these goals.

Improving Ambulance Response and A&E Waiting Times

One of the foremost challenges faced by the NHS is the mounting pressure on urgent and emergency care services. To address this issue, the 2023/24 business plan focuses on two main priorities:

Increasing Capacity: The plan allocates dedicated funding of £1 billion to create an additional 5,000 hospital beds. This investment aims to help hospitals manage growing pressures and ensure timely care for patients.

Growing the Workforce: To meet rising demand, efforts will be made to recruit and retain healthcare professionals, including retired clinicians and those nearing retirement. This step is essential to maintain a sufficient workforce for delivering high-quality care.

To further alleviate the burden on A&E departments and improve patient outcomes, the plan includes initiatives to streamline discharge processes and strengthen community-based healthcare services.

Reducing Elective Long Waits and Cancer Backlogs

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to extended waiting times for elective treatments and backlogs in cancer care. The 2023/24 business plan prioritises addressing these issues through the following objectives:

Increasing Capacity and Transforming Elective Care: A targeted investment fund will protect and expand elective activity, enabling more patients to receive timely treatment. Additionally, an outpatient productivity program will focus on freeing up capacity for those facing long waits.

Improving Patient Information and Support: Enhancing patient-facing information on waiting times and providing tools for managing conditions will empower patients to make informed decisions. Expanding community pharmacy services will also enhance accessibility to health services.

Streamlining Cancer Pathways and Case-finding: Strategies will be implemented to simplify cancer pathways and implement targeted case-finding programs, ensuring early diagnosis and treatment.

Maximising Diagnostic Capacity: Investments in pathology and imaging networks, along with community diagnostic centres, will support necessary diagnostic activity levels and address both elective and cancer backlogs.

Enhancing Access to Primary Care Services, Especially General Practice

Access to primary care, particularly general practice, has been a concern for many patients. The 2023/24 business plan aims to improve access and patient experience through these priorities:

Empowering Patients: Enhancing the NHS App and providing reliable health information will empower patients to manage their health effectively. Expanding community pharmacy services will offer a broader range of health services.

Modernising General Practice Access: Transitioning practices to digital telephony and simplifying online requests will improve patient experiences. The plan aims to make it easier for patients to contact their practice and receive same-day responses.

Building Capacity: Support for larger multidisciplinary teams in general practice will increase capacity and meet patient demands. Recruitment and retention efforts will focus on doctors and emergency medical technicians.

Improving Digital Infrastructure: Integrating digital platforms like the NHS App and NHS 111 online will streamline access to care, offering comprehensive advice and services to patients. Extensive trials of the 111 First initiative will be conducted to enhance 111 services.

Improving Mental Health Services and Services for People with Learning Disabilities and Autism

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected mental health, especially among individuals with learning disabilities and autism. The plan aims to improve mental health services and cater to the specific needs of these populations through the following objectives:

Expanding Access to Mental Health Services: Promoting access to NHS Talking Therapies and increasing services for children, young people, and perinatal mental health.

Enhancing Service Quality: Developing new care models will improve the quality of mental health services and ensure better integration with primary care. A digital strategy for mental health settings will also be developed.

Supporting Recovery in Urgent and Emergency Care: Recognising the impact of mental health on urgent and emergency care, strategies will ensure timely and appropriate care for mental health-related emergencies.

Improving Physical and Mental Health for Learning Disabilities and Autism: The plan focuses on enhancing the quality and accessibility of healthcare for individuals with learning disabilities and autism through toolkits and guidance.

Improving Maternity and Neonatal Services

The 2023/24 business plan for maternity and neonatal services aims to achieve the following priorities:

Equity and Personalised Care: Reduce inequalities in maternity and neonatal care and provide personalised care to meet the unique needs of mothers and babies.

Workforce Support: Support the workforce through initiatives like funding retention midwives and strengthening neonatal clinical leadership.

Safety, Learning, and Support: Emphasise safety, learning, and support in maternity and neonatal services, with resources and programs developed to enhance the culture of safety.

Best Practices and Data Use: Implement best practices and data utilisation in maternity and neonatal care, including recommendations for early warning systems.

Preventing Ill Health and Tackling Health Inequalities

Prevention is vital for improving population health and reducing health inequalities. The plan focuses on the following priorities:

Improved Clinical Management: Prevent avoidable ill-health by enhancing clinical management of conditions like cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes, with a focus on evidence-based prevention programs.

Optimising Healthcare Impact: Reduce smoking, obesity, and alcohol intake while promoting healthy lifestyle choices to enable longer, healthier lives.

Increasing Vaccination and Screening Uptake: Implement strategies to reduce variation and disparities in vaccination and screening programs, addressing health inequalities and improving detection rates for cancers.

Supporting NHS Strategic Priorities: Align with the NHS's strategic priorities, including restoring services inclusively, mitigating digital exclusion, ensuring complete and timely datasets, accelerating preventative programs, and strengthening leadership and accountability.

Recovering Productivity, Increasing Efficiency, and Delivering a Balanced Financial Position

To provide high-quality care for all, NHS England focuses on the following priorities:

Supporting Integrated Care Systems (ICSs): Collaboration and continuous improvement in ICSs to address unwarranted variation across clinical pathways and support the GIRFT program.

Reducing Agency Staff Bills: Strategies to reduce reliance on agency staff and encourage stable workforce arrangements.

Efficient Medicine Investments: Initiatives to maximise the value of NHS investments in medicines, including the VPAS framework for branded medicines pricing and access.

Commercial Excellence in Procurement: Improve commercial excellence in NHS procurement and reduce costs through strengthened practices.

NHS Estates Productivity and Efficiency: Focus on improving productivity and efficiency in NHS estates, including long-term planning, and reducing non-clinical space.

Building and Developing the Workforce for Now and the Future

The NHS recognises the importance of its workforce in delivering high-quality patient care. The plan prioritises the following initiatives:

Growing the Workforce: Recruitment efforts, domestically and internationally, to reduce vacancy rates and increase the number of qualified healthcare professionals.

Reforming Education and Training: Review and reform of education and training to better meet patient and student needs, including flexible training routes like apprenticeships.

Supporting Digital Technology and Workforce Transformation: Supporting digital tools, innovation, and flexible working practices to respond to changing population needs.

Improving Leadership and Staff Retention: Enhancing leadership, talent management practices, staff retention, and promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion, along with support for health and well-being.

The NHS England 2023/24 business plan lays out a comprehensive road map for enhancing healthcare services in the coming year. By addressing key priorities and implementing ambitious initiatives, the NHS aims to continue providing excellent healthcare services for the people of England.

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