UK Politics: Government unveils ten-year NHS plan

Prime Minister Theresa May
Theresa May says the publication of the 10-year NHS plan marks 'an historic step'

Brexit takes a back seat for a moment as the government unveils a ten-year plan for the NHS. The Tradefair team brings you the latest in UK Politics...

"The launch of the NHS Long Term Plan marks an historic step to secure its future and offers a vision for the service for the next ten years, with a focus on ensuring that every pound is spent in a way that will most benefit patients."

Monday (January 7) is one of the few days the month when Brexit will not dominate all the political headlines, as the government launches the ten-year NHS plan.

While Brexit may have been the political football of recent times, health has never stopped being a central issue. After years of accusations of underfunding and debates about the future of the NHS, the new plan will outline how the health service will use the additional £394 million promised to it every week by 2023.

NHS priorities outlined

Downing Street outlined several priority areas for the new money. These included a pledge that the NHS will offer "the best maternity care in the world", while at the other end of life, older people will be given help to deal with ageing independently, with as few hospital admissions as possible.

Better outcomes for all health conditions are a key target - not least mental health, while increasing the size of the NHS workforce is another. Indeed, critics in the unions and the Labour Party have said issues of staffing are a real concern, not least because Brexit is leading to fewer staff coming from the EU.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has pledged that there will be a major increase in recruitment, with five new medical schools being set up to train more doctors. A full workforce plan will be published later this year.

Further digitisation and the cutting of waste are also listed among the priorities.

"An historic step," says May

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The launch of the NHS Long Term Plan marks an historic step to secure its future and offers a vision for the service for the next ten years, with a focus on ensuring that every pound is spent in a way that will most benefit patients.

"This will help relieve pressure on the NHS while providing the basis to transform care with world-class treatments."

Perhaps most importantly, the government believes the focus on early intervention measures - such as healthy living programmes and early testing for diseases - could save up to 500,000 lives over the course of a decade.

The health announcement does not completely wipe Brexit off the news pages. After all, how could it? There is much concern about the potential economic impact and what this would mean for tax revenues and the government's ability to meet various spending commitments, including those in health.

Brexit deal vote looms

Whether Britain leaves the EU with a deal is perhaps the most central issue, with widespread fears of high-level disruption to the economy. Talk of Ramsgate port being dredged to take some of the pressure off Dover and of an old airfield near Dover being used as a lorry park have added to the concerns that too much is being done too late.

While frantic no-deal planning takes place, next week will finally see the delayed vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons, with May confirming there will be no further delay.

At this time, there appears no indication that the chances of it being passed appear as thin as they did last month, which leaves all the questions about what happens next still open. Inevitably, the markets will be watching the outcome closely, but many will be pricing in a no-deal.

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