On 7 January, the NHS long-term plan (formerly known as the 10-year plan) was published setting out key ambitions for the service over the next 10 years. In this explainer, The King’s Fund set out the main commitments in the plan and provide their view of what they might mean, highlighting the opportunities and challenges for the health and care system as it moves to put the plan into practice.
For nearly a decade, the NHS has experienced a significant slowdown in funding growth, while demand for services – and the cost of delivering those services – has grown rapidly. Cuts to public health and social care funding have added further pressure. As a result, NHS performance has declined. Key waiting time targets are being consistently missed and the finances of NHS providers have deteriorated rapidly; in 2017/18, the year-end aggregate provider overspend was £960 million. Workforce shortages are widespread, with more than 100,000 whole-time equivalent staff vacancies in hospitals, including more than 40,000 nurse vacancies. Last year’s winter crisis – the effects of which were still being felt well into the summer – underlined the fragile state of the service.