New NHS funding should be contingent on devolved health bodies improving wellbeing, say charities

Devolved health bodies should be incentivised to measure and reduce health inequalities and improve wellbeing, according to an influential group of health charities.

The Health and Wellbeing Alliance, writing to Simon Stevens (PDF, 230KB) in response to the consultation on the NHS long-term plan (LTP), say that funding should only be unlocked if new local health bodies like clinical commissioning groups and integrated care systems can demonstrate progress against wellbeing and health equality targets.

Incentivising them would lead to a greater emphasis on the long-term determinants of health, they argue.

The charities say that measurement of wellbeing remains low in the health service despite a range of tools being available to do so, such as those developed by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, and that there is no feeling that health bodies will be held accountable for failing to achieve progress in wellbeing.

The Alliance also calls for:

  • LTP funding to be prioritised on work directly addressing social determinants of health, such as poor housing, in order to reduce demand in the long term.
  • A clear expectation that social prescribing schemes should fund their referrals to voluntary organisations, many of which will not be sustainable without funding attached to patients who are being referred.
  • The LTP to provide a vision for volunteering in the NHS and how to maximise its positive impact on patients.

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which coordinated the Health and Wellbeing Alliance’s response, said:

Our sector plays an essential role in delivering health and care services, and we welcome the opportunity to feed in to the development of the new long-term plan. There are a lot of positives in the plan but it’s crucial that we have mechanisms to ensure its ambitions are translated into action. Without incentives it will be all too easy for the work that we all know will reduce the health burden in the long term to fall by the wayside.

Notes

The VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance is a partnership between voluntary sectors and the health and care system to provide a voice and improve the health and wellbeing for all communities. More information here: https://www.england.nhs.uk/hwalliance/

Earlier in the summer, Prime Minister Theresa May announced an additional £20 billion funding as a ‘birthday present’ for the NHS, which is turning 70 this year. Securing this funding was conditional on the NHS developing a long-term vision for health and care, demonstrating how the money was going to be used to improve services, by the autumn budget. Since the announcement, NHS England have been consulting with staff, stakeholders and the wider public on the new plan, including engagement with voluntary sector organisations.

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