Speech: What record NHS investment means for each of my priorities

Department Of Health

December 18
13:01 2019

Thank you for having me. Its great to be back.

Back as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Back in a Conservative government with the biggest majority in 30 years so we can get things done and move this country forward.

And brilliant timing that Policy Exchange has brought out the Peoples NHS, which is your research into the publics top priorities and Im delighted to say it was no surprise.

No surprise that commitment to more stuff is at the top of the list and fits with my experience over the last 18 months as Health Secretary and over the last 6 weeks, where Ive visited more hospitals than Ive had hot dinners.

Its also great to be back here with you today and see so many familiar faces.

Over the past 6 weeks, Ive been right across the country. From Durham to Devon. From Bishop Auckland to Bracknell. I went down to Cornwall and took a dip in the sea. Ive been to the beautiful beaches of Banff and Buchan.

Ive been to so many hospitals that Ive racked up a small fortune in car parking charges. But were doing something about that.

125 constituency visits.

Ive spoken to doctors, nurses, paramedics, porters, and patients the length and breadth of this nation.

Ive learnt a lot. As well as being on broadcast and trying to win this general election and supporting the party, Ive also been listening.

And its clear: what unites us, what we share is a deep and abiding love for the NHS. Its as if those 3 letters are embedded into our collective DNA.

One of the things this election result proves is that the people of this country want us to get Brexit done and invest in our NHS.

What we need now is a vision: a long-term plan for health and social care bold, confident and ambitious.

That message resonated so strongly with patients who I met and with the people who work in the NHS, who are desperate for the improvements in technology and to make sure that the pressures on the NHS are relieved.

When we look back in 2030 to this moment this once in a generation opportunity where a political commitment and the financial resources are in perfect alignment with the overwhelming public mandate, I want us to be able to say: Yes. We got it right.

We made the right decisions, took the necessary steps to build a stronger and more sustainable health and social care system.

Because I want us to seize this opportunity and over the next decade, by 2030, have an NHS where everyone is empowered and supported to stay healthy and out of hospital wherever possible.

Where people have more control over their personal healthcare, and technology enhances the ability of staff to care.

Where we build on the record levels of satisfaction in the NHS that we see right now, and the record levels of treatment in the NHS and build on our cutting-edge life sciences. Create a more integrated NHS with a culture that maximises the potential of every single member of its staff.

I want to stress this point. Ive met so many members of staff in the NHS over last 6 weeks and theres so much dedication and commitment, but there are also parts of the NHS where that full potential is not brought out of every single individual, and that is down to leadership and culture.

We need a leadership and culture across the whole NHS that matches the best parts of it now where every single person can achieve their best. Ive seen that talking to people on wards, in primary care and talking to people at all levels the capability must be unleashed with a more supportive working culture.

We also need to rise to increasing levels of demand and an ageing population are not things we fear, but things we are prepared for, and can make the most of because people living longer is a good thing we should celebrate.

Thats my vision for where we need to get to. And I know its a vision shared by people across the nation.

One of the things I heard, over and over again, is that the early priorities I set for the whole of the health and social care system these priorities are the right priorities, and we need to double down and re-energise them.

And thanks to the emphatic support of the Prime Minister, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I can add one more. So my priorities, which will apply to each and every part of the health and care system, are:

  • Prevention: because prevention is better than cure.

  • People: because we need more people working smarter.

  • Technology: because patients and clinicians demand better.

And today, Im adding a fourth priority. Infrastructure: because buildings matter too.

And all of this capital investment is underpinned by our record financial commitment to the NHS Long Term Plan: 33.9 billion extra every year within the next 5 years.

And we will meet our first manifesto pledge by enshrining that into law.

My 4 priorities are backed by clear numerical commitments we made in the campaign, which I am determined to meet:

  • 40 new hospitals over the next decade
  • 50,000 more nurses
  • 6,000 more GPs
  • 6,000 more primary care professionals
  • and 50 million more GP appointments

We will deliver on these and each and every commitment in our manifesto.

One of the reasons Im here, less than a week from the election result, having worked through the weekend to get the early announcements out is that we are absolutely determined to deliver on our commitments.

So let me just take a moment to spell out what this record investment means for each of my 4 priorities.

First: infrastructure.

Over the last couple of decades, the approach to upgrading hospital infrastructure has been too piecemeal and unstrategic. Ive seen some places where the infrastructure is fantastic, but in others its crying out for an upgrade.

Under the Health Infrastructure Plan, the NHS will come out of the 2020s completely physically transformed.40 new hospitals over the next decade, but also addressing the short-term demands, fixing the backlog of maintenance and integrating care, both between primary and secondary, community and mental health, and the wider life sciences and research agenda.

The Health Infrastructure Plan will include the 20 hospital upgrades the PM announced on the steps of Downing Street, which are already underway.

Were going to build a better NHS brick by brick: modern well-designed wards, with the right facilities to speed up recovery, ensure patients receive the right treatment, cut waiting times, improve patient safety, and make life easier for staff.

But its not just about the bricks and mortar. Its about integrating care better. Its going to be the biggest hospital building programme in a generation.

And were going to radically simplify the approvals process to make the whole approach for the use of capital investment more strategic across integrated care systems not piecemeal trust by trust.

But it isnt just about investing in new buildings, but embracing a new mindset.

So my second priority is prevention. Putting prevention at the heart of everything we do. Prevention of ill health.

It cant be right that as we enter the 2020s a man born in Buckingham can expect 68 years of good health, but a man born in Blackpool can only expect 53. Thats a health-span gap of 15 years. And it starts even before a child is born.

So were massively investing in maternity care and in primary care because primary care is the frontline of prevention.

We will deliver an extra 50 million appointments a year in general practice within the next 5 years by expanding the workforce, harnessing the power of technology, and giving GPs the support they need.

And we will also unleash the potential of our pharmacies because there really is so much more they are capable of doing.

Over the next 5 years, they will become the first port of call for patients with minor illnesses. More than 10,000 pharmacies are ready to receive referrals from other parts of the health service and that number will grow.

The prevention agenda is incredibly important because prevention is better than cure.

We also know the challenges the NHS faces: demand is rising faster than at any point in history.

Baby-boomers are reaching the age where they need more and more healthcare.

So, as well as investing in infrastructure, we need to make the 2020s a decade of prevention of ill health:

Support everyone to take more care of their own health. I dont believe in the worried well I want healthy people to be concerned about their own health so they stay healthy.

Vaccinate against preventable diseases.

Redouble our efforts to be smoke-free, redouble our efforts on obesity, and embed a more proactive, predictive and personalised approach across the NHS.

And we must hardwire good health into housing, transport, education, welfare and the economy because we all know preventing ill health mental and physical is about more than just healthcare. I pay tribute to the work of Public Health England, and we are going to do much more.

My third priority is people.

On my 125 visits, I met the most amazing people and was inspired once again by their service and dedication. We need the right numbers of people, and we also need the right culture.

I know there is an urgent need for more nurses in our health service.

Every hospital I go to, I ask staff, top to bottom: If theres one thing you could change what would it be? and the number of nurses is, without fail, t

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