UK Government

Department of Health: An NHS strategy for a new era

Press Release   •   Dec 10, 2009 11:37 GMT

Health Secretary Andy Burnham today set out his strategy for the NHS to put patients first and improve the quality of care as it enters an unprecedented era of reform.

The strategy, ‘NHS 2010-2015: from good to great. Preventative, people-centred, productive,’ published today by the Department of Health, explains the need to  accelerate the pace of NHS reform to make the system more productive and hasten improvements in quality of care – protecting patients, supporting staff, shifting resources to the frontline and slashing back office waste and bureaucracy.

Andy Burnham said:

“The NHS today is better funded, more resilient, has more capacity and provides better care than ever before. It is ready to take on the new challenge of getting more out of what we have and moving from good to great.

“For the NHS to become truly great, it must become more preventative and people-centred. Lord Darzi’s vision to put quality at the heart of the NHS is fast becoming a reality across the country. This means top quality care is our goal and patient safety our top priority. This is right for our times. Quality care is not always about spending more money, but about spending it in the right places. Moving care from hospitals into homes and communities is better for patients and more efficient.

“With an ageing population and the increased prevalence of lifestyle diseases, preventing illness and keeping people healthy is our best long term insurance policy for the nation’s health and managing the financial challenges ahead. The NHS should intervene earlier to help people lead healthier lives and prevent more disease.

“The improvements in the last decade have been made by NHS staff. It is vital to protect frontline staff in order to deliver services to patients. The challenge to the NHS, and to NHS leaders and staff around the country, is to reshape services further and faster than ever before. We are proud of the achievements of NHS staff and we will do everything we can to support them through the next period of change.

“In the past, a tougher financial environment has meant that patients have paid the price through longer waits. But that will not happen this time. We will not back away from the NHS. The Pre-Budget Report confirms that we can lock-in the achievements of the last decade, while protecting patients and providing top quality care.

“I have said that the NHS is our preferred provider. This is not about accepting underperformance or freezing out our partners in other parts of the NHS, the third sector and the independent sector. But we are asking the NHS and its staff to go through an unprecedented amount of change, so this is about saying that where there is underperformance and the NHS is an incumbent provider, we will give the NHS the first opportunity to improve to the level of the best.”

The measures include:

  • A new payment system, which puts patients first – hospital income will increasingly be linked to patient satisfaction, rising to 10 per cent of their payments over time, meaning hospitals will work harder for their patients.
  • More choice for patients – abolishing GP practice boundaries, improving access to a GP in the evenings and weekends and more services at home or in the community.
  • Dedicated carers for those in need for patients with cancer or serious long-term conditions who can benefit from a more personal approach to nursing. Where appropriate, this should include the provision of personalised one-to-one support by a health professional, particularly for the more complex conditions.
  • New rights to high quality care including consulting on the right for patients nearing the end of their life to choose where they wish to spend their final days and new rights to high quality standards of service and care that will be clearly set out in the new NHS Constitution.
  • Supporting staff – we believe the announcement in the Pre-Budget Report provides the resources to protect frontline services in the NHS. We are proposing to work with NHS Employers and trade unions through the national Social Partnership Forum and Staff Council to explore the pros and cons of whether we could offer frontline staff an employment guarantee locally or regionally – in return for flexibility, mobility and sustained pay restraint.
  • More freedom for the best hospitals to expand their services out into the community across a wider area including GP centres.
  • More access to personal care plans that allow patients to choose the right care tailored to their individual needs.
  • Personal health budgets to empower patients to give millions of patients the right to more control over their care and the services they can ask for, as well as more options to receive care at or closer to home.
  • Locking in improvements in the service with the NHS Constitution – from 1 April 2010, we will give patients the legal right to maximum waiting times to start treatment by a consultant within 18 weeks of GP referral and to being seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of GP referral. In addition, the Prime Minister announced in September plans to offer all patients in England access to tests that can confirm or exclude cancer within one week to help save thousands of lives every year.
  • From April 2012, we also want everyone between 40 and 74 to have the legal right to an NHS Health Check every five years to assess their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
  • Regular free health checks will improve health and prevent up to 1,600 heart attacks and strokes each year.

In addition, NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson today outlined details of the NHS Operating Framework for 2010/11, due to be published next week, which will set out NHS priorities for the next year. The Operating Framework will help the NHS make the changes necessary to embed quality and for it to drive all that the NHS does.

The Framework will allow the NHS to focus on ensuring care is safe, compassionate and personal to patients and will provide real opportunity for radical and innovative approaches to improve the quality of services, whilst at the same time reducing costs.

Notes to editors

  • ‘NHS 2010-2015: from good to great. Preventative, people-centred, productive,’ is available on the Department of Health website:
  • The top five priorities for the NHS in the Operating Framework remain:
    • improving standards of cleanliness and tackling healthcare associated infections;
    • improving access to care through the achievement of the 18-week referral to treatment pledge and improving access to GP services, including at evenings and at weekends;
    • improving the health of adults and children and reducing health inequalities, by focusing on improving care for cancer and stroke, and paying particular attention to children's health, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country;
    • improving patient experience, staff satisfaction and engagement; and
    • preparing to respond in a state of emergency, such as an outbreak of pandemic influenza.
  • For further information please contact the Department of Health press office on: 0207 210 5221.
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