NHS Long Term Plan

The NHS has been an integral part of my family for as long as I can remember.  My grandmother was a nursing sister at the Cumberland Royal Infirmary; my mother was also an NHS nurse at the City General in Carlisle for a time; my father trained as a surgeon at the NHS Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, and together with millions of others across our country, I have relied upon the service for myself, my children and my husband’s good health for over half a century.

Medical advances, population growth and our aging population continuously transform the national health picture and if the NHS is to be able to deliver for the next 50 years, we must make sure it is able to adapt accordingly. I am therefore delighted that the Government has committed an extra £20.5 billion by 2023-24, the largest cash increase in its history, to fund the NHS Long-Term Plan which was announced this month.

The plan represents a significant step forward in terms of addressing regional and social health inequalities, especially among those from our BAME communities who are currently at a substantially higher risk of poor health, particularly in the areas of diabetes, mental health and maternal health.

For example, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be up to six times higher in certain BAME groups and so some of the extra £20.5billion of extra funding will be used to expand the Diabetes Prevention Programme.

In maternity care the Long-Term Plan will implement a new targeted model of care for the most vulnerable mothers, many of whom are part of our BAME communities. Midwifery-led extended care is a policy of providing mothers with the same midwife throughout their pregnancy, during labour and afterwards, during postnatal care.  For those who have already benefited from this approach, the numbers speak for themselves; 16% are less likely to lose their baby, 19% less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks and 24% are less likely to experience a premature birth. As a result of this new funding pledge, over three quarters of women from BAME communities will now receive ‘midwifery-led extended care’ by 2024.

At the beating heart of the NHS are its staff, and they too will benefit from this historic investment in our health service.  There will be more money for training and support, helping the NHS to keep and recruit more staff.  Equality and diversity of the NHS workforce is also crucial to ensuring the best possible care for all patients, which is why the Long-Term Plan will extend the implementation of the Workforce Race Equality Standard. NHS England will dedicate an extra £1million a year to extend the programme to 2025, and each NHS organisation will set its own target for BAME representation across its leadership team and broader workforce by 2021-22 – ensuring senior NHS teams, both at management and clinical level more closely represent the diversity of the local communities they serve.

The NHS Long Term Plan will ensure our national health service is able to deliver for everyone, free at the point of use – whoever, and wherever, you are. Vitally, it also addresses inequalities of access, experience and outcomes that have blighted our BAME communities. Equality and diversity are at the core of our modern society and the Long-Term Plan cements them into the foundations of our NHS.

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This is a comment for The Voice newspaper written by Helen Grant MP within her role as Vice Chair (Communities) of the Conservative Party.