On 22 September 2022 the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) published their policy paper on ‘Our plan for patients’ Our plan for patients - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). This is the first plan set out by the new Health Secretary, Teresa Coffey. This brief updates picks up some of the key themes.
In order to help the NHS and social care perform at their best for patients, the DHSC has set out a plan with a range of measures to achieve this. This plan will sit alongside the NHS Long Term Plan NHS Long Term Plan launched - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) the forthcoming workforce plan and their plans for adult social care.
Key points from the Plan:
Easy-to use data will be published on how a patient’s local NHS is performing, for example regarding waiting lists for elective care and general practice appointments.
More prevention services will be moved closer to the patient, whether at home or in the community, such as home blood pressure monitoring and mobile breast screening units.
Measures will be taken to ensure patients can have better access to see their GP, dentist or practice nurse. This includes targets for a maximum 2-week wait to see a GP and the creation of an additional 31,000 phone lines so that it is easier to contact your GP.
Ministers and DHSC will partner with NHS England to proactively improve outcomes for patients, hold the frontline accountable and support them to achieve these aims.
In order to ensure patients and those who draw on care and support receive health and adult social care as quickly and conveniently as possible, DHSC will focus on the ABCDs- ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists.
Ambulances: Ambulance services will be supported so that they are able to operate more effectively, with a refinement of urgent care pathways, including discharge. For example, improving the handover of patients will allow ambulances to get back on the road faster to respond to 999 calls creating a shorter wait time for Category 1 and Category 2 incidents.
Backlogs: Waiting times will be reduced, with a target to eliminate waits of over 18 months by April 2023, over 15 months by 2024 and over a year by 2025. In order to address this, DHSC intends to reduce waiting times by expanding capacity and prioritising patients with the greatest need. There are also plans for earlier diagnostic tests closer to home to accelerate pathways. Patients will be given more choice, including more access to independent providers, to improve operational productivity.
Care: There will be a £500 million Adult Care Discharge Fund to help accelerate patient discharge into social care settings.
Doctors: DHSC intends to make it easier for patients to access their general practice by increasing appointments and phone lines available for GP practices. By publishing data on waiting times for booking and receiving appointments, patients will be able to make more informed decisions. Additionally, DHSC will be launching a new community pharmacy offer, allowing Pharmacists to manage and supply medicines without a prescription from a GP which will reduce reliance on GPs.
Update written by Patricia Cifani and Patrick Parkin.