With all the noise and discord of Brexit it’s possible to think there are no other important challenges facing the country. There are and few more important than the future of the NHS. The Governments NHS Long Term Plan set out ambitions to improve treatment and care, showing how the extra £20 billion announced last June will be spent.
Let me say firstly, there’s much on the plan worth supporting. The greater use of genomics, the commitment to early cancer diagnosis, new CT and MRI scanners and the greater focus on child and maternal health are all welcome – and are actually already our party policy.
It’s less rosy elsewhere. There’s no clear plan on reducing waiting lists or waiting times which are rising. Indeed the scrapping of targets for planned and emergency care in response to last year’s crisis has led to fears that they’ll be abandoned altogether.
Then there’s the much promised long term workforce plan. There’s already 100,000 staff vacancies and Ministers have refused to say where new recruits will come from. The warm words about parity between mental and physical health – again a shared and worthy ambition – won’t be enough without more mental health nurses.
The longterm success of our NHS doesn’t require another Action Plan unless the emphasis is on Action and less on a Plan. That means giving our excellent NHS staff the resources to get on with their jobs.