NHS Long Term Plan: Increased role for volunteers

NHS Long Term Plan: Increased role for volunteers

The NHS Long Term Plan, published on 7th January, will save almost half a million more lives with practical action on major killer conditions and investment in world class, cutting edge treatments.

It builds on 2014's NHS Five Year Forward View. Whist the Forward View highlighted the problems with a strategic vision, it did not set out detailed plans or commitments. By contrast, the latest plan is littered with specific pledges.

The Plan sets out ways in which patients will benefit from services ranging from improved neonatal care for new parents and babies to life-changing stroke therapy and integrated support to keep older people out of hospital, living longer and more independent lives. It is understood that GPs, mental health and community care will get the biggest funding increases to shift the focus away from hospitals.

The Plan is to deliver a new service model for the 21st century across England, where health bodies come together to provide better, joined up care in partnership with local government.
Investment in mental health services is set to rise to at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023/24.

Building on significant expansion in recent years, the long term plan will see around two million more people who suffer anxiety, depression or other problems receive help over the next decade.

The NHS Long Term Plan will also:
• Open a digital ‘front door’ to the health service, allowing patients to be able to access health care at the touch of a button
• Provide genetic testing for a quarter of people with dangerously high inherited cholesterol
• Give mental health help to 345,000 more children and young people through the expansion of community based services
• Use cutting edge scans and technology, including using artificial intelligence, to help provide better stroke care with over 100,000 more people each year accessing new, better services
• Invest in earlier detection and better treatment of respiratory conditions to prevent 80,000 hospital admissions and smart inhalers will be piloted so patients can assess their condition
• Ensure every hospital with a major A&E department has ‘same day emergency care’ in place so that patients can be treated and discharged with the right package of support, without needing an overnight stay.

What of the role of the community and voluntary sector? The plan has lots of references to the voluntary sector.  For example, it is expected that the patient benefits from ‘social prescribing’, personal health budgets, and new support for managing own health will be achieved in partnership with the voluntary sector.

Community multidisciplinary teams aligned with new primary care networks based on neighbouring GP practices could be assisted by the voluntary sector.

Local NHS organisations will increasingly focus on population health – moving to Integrated Care Systems (ICS) everywhere with the expectation that the voluntary sector will become involved.

Better support for patients, carers and volunteers to enhance ‘supported self-management’ particularly of long-term health conditions.

NHS England, working the voluntary and community sector and others, will develop and publish a ‘menu’ of evidence-based interventions that if adopted locally would support a narrowing of health inequalities.

A new approach to young adult mental health services for people aged 18-25 will support the transition to adulthood including health, social care, education and the voluntary sector.

But it’s the increased role of volunteers that catches the eye. The paragraph is reproduced in full below.

“Staff, patients and volunteers benefit from well-designed volunteering initiatives. Volunteers contribute across a range of NHS roles, from first responders and care companions to trust governors and transport volunteers. They enable staff to deliver high-quality care that goes above and beyond core services. Well-designed and managed volunteering programmes improve satisfaction and wellbeing ratings for staff, as well as volunteers and patients. Local volunteering allows older people to stay physically active and connected to their communities, and younger people to develop skills and experience for work and education. But not all NHS organisations offer these opportunities for their local community, as the ratio of staff to volunteers in acute trusts ranges from 2:1 to 26:1. We will therefore encourage NHS organisations to give greater access for younger volunteers through programmes such as #iWill and an increased focus on programmes in deprived areas, and for those with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism. And we will back the Helpforce programme with at least £2.3 million of NHS England funding to scale successful volunteering programmes across the country, part of our work to double the number of NHS volunteers over the next three years.”


But what does this all mean? Well, from now until the summer of 2019 staff, patients and the public will have the opportunity to help their local NHS work out what NHS Long Term Plan means for their area and how to meet NHS England’s national ambitions in their community. Whist some changes might be implemented within the next year or so, others will take to 2028 to deliver.