Health and Wellbeing Alliance round-up: The NHS long-term plan

Last year I wrote about the development of a new long-term plan for the health service, a piece of work by NHS England that was required as a condition for the additional £20.5bn funding it was promised as its ‘70th birthday present’ in June.

The plan was due to be released in time for the budget on 29 October, but was delayed in light of the government’s focus on Brexit. It was instead launched by the prime minister on Monday.

The main ambitions

The plan contains a huge amount of ambition and hopes to ensure ‘that patients will be supported with world-class care at every stage of their life’. It is absolutely worth taking the time to read through the NHS’ two-page summary that goes over each of broad ambitions the plan is centred around. I would also suggest (as I’m sure many of you already have) that any charities working in health and care should take the time to read as much of the full plan as you can.

Big shifts include additional funding and a change of approach in primary and community care. This will see the roll-out of primary care networks across the country, additional funding for prevention and detection for major conditions including cancer, stroke and dementia, as well as a £2bn injection in spending on mental health care.

A positive tone on charities

In the space of this blog, it’s most pertinent to focus on voluntary organisations. There’s a really positive message here: charities are not an afterthought in this plan, they are a real part of it. Throughout the 136-page document, the voluntary sector is regularly highlighted as part of what will build the future of the health service.

On a local level, this includes a commitment to voluntary sector representation on the newly developed partnership boards in each integrated care system (ICS). As the long-term plan includes a commitment to have an ICS covering every area of England by April 2021, this means that there will be voluntary sector representation locally across the country. If you want to understand more about how integrated care systems work, have a look on the NHS England website.

On a national level, there is a commitment to voluntary sector membership in the new NHS Assembly. The main role of the assembly will be to advise the boards of NHS England and NHS Improvement as part of the ‘guiding coalition’ which is going to implement the long-term plan – so it’s an important forum for us to have a voice in.

The visibility of charities and voluntary organisations throughout the plan is really encouraging and provides a strong baseline for accountability of national and local health bodies in years to come.

A focus on health inequalities

Another big win for charities in the long-term plan is action on prevention and health inequalities. When we wrote to Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, as part of the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance during consultation on the plan, we asked for the integration of health inequalities across the plan. The focus on this area in the document shows this has been taken on board. Particularly helpful is a commitment from the NHS to the continued commissioning and championing of local voluntary organisations in reducing inequalities, and providing services and support to vulnerable and at-risk groups.

Volunteering and the long-term plan

The long-term plan makes a commitment to doubling the number of volunteers in the NHS, as well as providing at least £2.3m of funding to the Helpforce programme to scale-up successful volunteering programmes across the country.

The plan recognises the positive impact volunteers make across a range of NHS roles. This includes supporting patients to self-manage long-term health conditions, as well as the involvement of people with mental health issues, learning disabilities and autism outlined in the plan.

As part of this work, it’ll be incredibly important for NHS England to keep in mind that good strategic design of volunteering programmes and expert volunteer management will both play a crucial role in NHS volunteers making a positive impact.

What happens next?

Generally speaking, NCVO’s view is that the plan sets a positive strategic direction for the future of the voluntary sector’s work with the NHS. NHS England have now asked local NHS organisations including sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs), ICSs, local councils and other local partnerships to develop strategies for implementing the plan on a local level for 2019/20 by April, and their wider strategy for the next five years by October.

NHS England have also engaged local Healthwatch groups to support NHS teams in ensuring that the views of patients and the public are heard. Age UK will lead on work with other charities to provide additional opportunities to hear from people with specific needs or concerns.

It is really important that the voices of charities and their beneficiaries continue to be heard in the roll-out of this new plan. Please do take the time to share your thoughts directly with NHS England through your local STP, or through NCVO and the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance at We’ll continue to work with our partners on the Alliance to help the sector understand the opportunities there are in the next stage to get involved.


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Rosie joined NCVO in 2018 as a trainee external relations officer after working as a programme manager for a literacy charity. Rosie supports both NCVO’s parliamentary work and media relations, including Constructive Voices, and is responsible for organising our annual Campaigning Conference.

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