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NHS - Post-Election Update - Sarah Eglington June 2015

Leading up to the general election on 7th May 2015, we sat with bated breath waiting to hear which party (or parties) would be successful. For those working in, or with, healthcare, we wanted to know who would take the NHS reins, what changes they’d make and what impact that would potentially have on our businesses. Would there be a new Secretary of State for Health? Were we on the brink of another restructure? What would happen to NHS funding and what new policies would be introduced?

By lunchtime on the 8th May, a Conservative majority was announced and David Cameron stayed on as Prime Minister. By teatime we knew that Jeremy Hunt was retaining his cabinet role as Health Secretary, and after that it seemed pretty much business as usual for healthcare for the foreseeable future. But what does this mean for healthcare over the next 12 months? The £2 billion additional funding for the frontline NHS in England in 2015/16, announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn statement still stands, as does the £200 million ‘transformation fund’ to kick start the NHS Five Year Forward View. The Five Year Forward View introduced in October 2014 by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, who also retains his role, is well underway and looks set to run it’s full course now.

The NHS budget will continue to be ring-fenced, with a real-terms increase in health spending from 2015-2020 but the NHS still has to make £billions of savings to meet the increasing costs and demands of the healthcare service.The ‘zero-tolerance on supplier price increases’ policy remains in place, which continues to prove challenging for NHS suppliers who are facing price increases themselves and not always getting commitment for ‘quantity’ from the NHS. In a recent OnMedica survey, the majority of healthcare professionals questioned said that they were looking for ‘partnerships not products’ from their suppliers, and that whilst ‘price’ was still a determining factor, what they wanted
was to work more closely with suppliers to deliver healthcare. Whilst new NHS procurement policy goes some way to support this concept, it would seem that longer-term commitment and relationship building may provide the answer to challenges faced on both sides.

The focus for healthcare going forward seems to be on prevention, not just treatment and cure, and Simon Stevens sees this very much as the answer to slowing down increasing costs (estimated to be an additional £8 billion by 2020) and retaining a sustainable healthcare system for future generations. We would expect to see more policies and government initiatives around prevention being introduced in the coming months, and therefore anyone working with, or in the NHS, who can support healthcare prevention are likely to viewed more favourably when selecting products and services that deliver healthcare services. Another key focus will be around increased accessibility to healthcare. Homecare, extended GP surgery opening hours, 24-7 operating theatres and other initiatives will support David Cameron’s plans to introduce a seven-day NHS, a vision that is underpinned by a proposed £1 billion investment in GP services over the next four years.

So for now, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the election didn’t deliver the drastic changes some were expecting. For now it looks like we have a period of continuity and familiarity that will allow us all to push ahead with our plans to work more collaboratively to ultimately provide innovative, cost-effective and patient-centric healthcare.    

<Taken from the Foreword of Binley's NHS Guide Summer_Autumn 2015 edition>

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