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Time for a 'reset' on health funding warns NHS England chief Simon Stevens

Published 17/06/2016

NHS chief Simon Stevens has agreed a new budget to make the use of medical technology more widespread
NHS chief Simon Stevens has agreed a new budget to make the use of medical technology more widespread

The head of NHS England has said there will have to be a "reset" on money this financial year, saying "times are tight and tough".

Simon Stevens, addressing NHS leaders in Manchester, said he did not believe it would be prudent to assume any additional NHS funding over the next several years.

Speaking at the NHS Confederation conference, he also said it was unknown what circumstances the organisation would face following the result of the EU referendum.

He said: "In a nutshell for this year, I'm afraid there will be a reset on the money. It's my job to tell you that, that is something that the politicians will also come to more explicitly in July so we might as well recognise that and be getting on with it rather than waiting for it to come and bite us later in the year. It's going to be tough, let's be frank about that."

He added that the NHS needed to get its "sleeves rolled up and get delivering on the key national priorities and strategies" but said that he was optimistic, "without being naive".

In his speech he told health leaders the quality of care on offer to people in the country was now, "better than it has ever been" and stated that key priorities were to stabilise finances and take practical actions in implementing strategies.

Mr Stevens said: "It has been an incredibly demanding year. I know it's tough for front line staff across the NHS, in and around the NHS there's never been a more complex time to be a health service leader.

"Despite all of those pressures there is no other major industrialised country in the world over the last year that can claim to have treated nine out of 10 patients within four hours in an A&E department or provided nine out of 10 of its citizens with access to needed planned surgery within 18 weeks."

He said that quality of care on offer to people in the country was owed in part to the compassion and sensitivity being offered.

Mr Stevens added: "However, circumstances facing us now are different. The challenges are different, the financial circumstances are different and therefore our response needs to be different."

He spoke of the Spending Review outcome.

"First up - let's not rewrite history, in the forward view we said that the NHS would need between £8-21 billion by 2020 in order to sustain and improve.

"We have a U-shaped funding settlement which against a very difficult fiscal backdrop it can be regarded as good as would be obtainable under those circumstances.

"Capital is incredibly tight, as we think about our plans, our redesigns, solutions that are heavy on capital expenditure, right now it's hard to see how they are going to be financeable."

Mr Stevens added that extra purchasing power for new funding programmes such as mental health services, was "regrettably back-loaded" towards the 2019/2020 period and added that 2016/17 needed to be used as the "reset moment" to get finances and performances in place.

During his speech he also pledged to get technology into the hands of patients and doctors more quickly.

He agreed a new budget to make the use of medical technology - "medtech" - more widespread in a bid to speed up treatment and enable people to stay out of hospital.

He stated that he wanted to see greater use of new medtech devices and apps for patients with diabetes, heart problems, asthma, sleep disorders and other chronic health conditions, and called it "energising and exciting".

Other health areas may benefit from technology such as infertility, pregnancy, weight loss and mental health.

A new funding model will mean automatic payments are set up, while NHS England will be able to negotiate national bulk buy discounts on behalf of hospitals, GPs and patients.

Examples of apps include MyCOPD, which offers people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) advice on how to use their medication properly and exercises designed to improve lung function.

Another medtech device is the AliveCor mobile heart monitor which instantly records electrocardiogram (ECG) readings, enabling users to track and manage abnormal heart rhythms.

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