The chief executive of the NHS has pledged to hold a ‘major conversation’ with the British people about the future of the health service and its priorities over the next two years – with a new long-term funding settlement expected to be announced as early as next week.
Simon Stevens said he is not expecting a ‘blockbuster settlement’ but that it was ‘immensely encouraging’ that more money was likely to be on the way.
Mr Stevens, speaking at NHS Confed18 in Manchester on Wednesday, said he would be chartering an NHS assembly made up of national and local leaders, clinicians, patients groups and voluntary organisations to draw up a 10-year plan for the health service.
‘The case for the NHS can be made very simply,’ Mr Stevens said. ‘We are a high-quality health service that removes the money worries from people at a time of sickness and we are a tremendous economic bargain for the people of this country.
‘We are all very heartened by the PMs evidence commitment to a multi-year funding settlement for the NHS given the sensitivity of the conversations I will not provide you with a running commentary other than to say the Government have before it a range of independent advice that can be factored into the decision they will have to take.’
Mr Stevens said the NHS would be based in ‘pragmatism’ and ‘realism’ and would continue to focus on key targets like mental health and cancer, but that other issues should be decided by the new NHS assembly.
He said: ‘Assuming we get something that is workable the question for the NHS is how do we see the process unfolding from here. I doubt we’re going to be in a position of returning to blockbuster settlements of the early 2000s so we will have to think carefully about the priorities and the phasing of improvement and we want to develop a long-term plan for the next five and 10 years We need to lock in the progress made on cancer and mental health but frankly we want to go further.’
Mr Stevens said a ‘frank’ assessment of the likely demands on the NHS would be required – and investment in capital, technology and workforce solutions needed.
He said the next three or four months would see the assembly looking at priorities and expected to develop a long-term plan for the NHS between Summer and mid-to-late Autumn, before enacting the plan later in the year.