The NHS Long Term Plan was published earlier today and set out bold recommendations and commitments which have the potential to radically improve brain tumour patients' treatment and care in England.
To implement the many commitments made in the NHS Long Term Plan, it is essential that issues around workforce are tackled. Launching the plan in Liverpool today, Prime Minister Theresa May outlined that "we are taking a big step to secure the future of our NHS for our children – and for their children."
However, in order to secure the NHS and safeguard it for future generations, we need to get the basics rights. It is imperative that the workforce is equipped to manage an ageing population and increasing cancer rates.
The Prime Minister has said that she wants, “a service where the workforce are better supported and recognised as the lifeblood of our NHS".
If we are to achieve this, however, it is vital that there is adequate financial investment in the workforce. It is also crucial that more is done to both attract new staff into the NHS whilst retaining the current NHS workforce.
Challenges in securing the workforce are compounded by the fact that 1 in 11 NHS clinical posts are vacant with pressure already being felt on cancer care. There is a considerable reliance on bank and agency staff too which is a temporary and costly solution.
It is encouraging news that by 2021, every person diagnosed with cancer will receive a care plan. In the 2011/12 iteration of the National Cancer Patient Experience Survey (NCPES) 24% of cancer patients said that they had been offered a written assessment and care plan.
In the most recent publication of the NCPES, it was reported that 35% of respondents said that they had been given one. Whilst it is positive that the NHS are committing to improving administration of care, guaranteeing a care plan for every cancer patient will be challenging if workforce issues are not resolved.
As well as ensuring the workforce is fit for purpose and that the NHS operates effectively day-to-day, it is necessary that the NHS is ambitious and innovative.
Matt Hancock has repeatedly committed to a radical overhaul within the NHS of its technology. He has also made bold promises as part of this 'digital revolution' to transform the NHS. This includes using digital technology to provide more 'convenient ways for patients to access advice and care', as well as patients being able to access a digital first primary care offer by 2023/24.
However, for this 'digital revolution' to work, the foundations need to be laid first. We need a workforce that is properly resourced but also has the capability to redefine the scope. Staff will need to be employed who understand the details of complex digital technology. How and where these will come from is unclear and currently ambiguous.
In the Prime Minister's speech she emphasised that “a plan is only as good as its delivery". If the objectives set out in the NHS Long Term Plan are met, this will have hugely positive consequences for brain tumour patients and other people affected by less survivable cancers.
There is a huge opportunity here to ensure that the NHS of the future delivers for people affected by brain tumours.
We will continue to work hard to make sure that our community's voices are heard and the promises set out in the plan are delivered.