The much-anticipated plan for the long term future of the NHS has been delayed until next year, Nursing Times understands.
The document, which was originally billed as being scheduled for release by NHS England this month, is now not expected until January.
“We believe the NHS is up for radical change – we all know nothing less will do”
The blueprint will set out how the £20.5bn annual budget increase promised by prime minister Theresa May will be spent. For the first time, it is also due to include a substantial chapter on workforce planning.
More opportunities for flexible working and career development will be among key measures to feature in the new 10‐year plan for the NHS that will “reset the deal between the NHS and its staff”, said May in June when she first announced the development of the document.
However, the chaos around Brexit has reportedly contributed to the hold up with the much-anticipated plan. It follows the revelation that the release of the government’s social care green paper, initially due in July, then pushed back until the autumn, had been delayed again until 2019.
Responding to the news about the NHS long term plan, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth wrote on Twitter: “A&Es in crisis, waiting lists getting longer, public health provision cut, social care savaged, services privatised and chronic staff shortages, patients deserve better.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said the new plan must be “radical” but needed to avoid being “unrealistic”.
He said the current situation facing the NHS was “very serious”, with overstretched services, too many patients and too few staff.
Investment was needed in new services in the community that could relieve pressure on hospitals, said Mr Dickson, adding: “The mistake would be just to invest in the current model.”
However, Mr Dickson stressed that even the best laid plan could not succeed without tackling workforce shortages and the “dire state” of social care.
He added: “We believe the NHS is up for radical change - we all know nothing less will do, but it will require honesty about what can be achieved and realism from the political class.”
NHS England, which is creating the long term plan, declined to provide a comment when approached by Nursing Times but did not dispute the claims that it had been delayed until next year.
Some of the policies of the long term plan have already been revealed, including supporting earlier diagnosis of cancer; new mental health crisis services; and providing early intervention for people with a learning disability or autism.
In light of wide-spread criticism about historical poor workforce planning, the blueprint is set to include a chapter setting out proposals for securing enough staff now and into the future.
Dr Ruth May, executive chief nurse at NHS Improvement and recently announced to be England’s next chief nursing officer, is on the workforce, training and leadership working group for the development of the long term plan.
She has previously confirmed her commitment to fighting for greater investment in continuing professional development (CPD) for nurses.
Funding for this area has been reduced by 60%, from £205m in 2015, to £83.49m in 2017.
The Royal College of Nursing has also called for the long term plan to invest an additional £1bn a year into higher education for nurses as part of the extra cash commited to the NHS by Ms May.
Health minister Stephen Hammond has pledged to consider the proposals, as reported by Nursing Times.
The last time a 10-year strategy document was drawn up covering the whole health service in England was the NHS Plan, which was published in 2000 by the Labour government under Tony Blair.