There is a big claim at the head of the Government's long term plan for the NHS: 500,000 lives saved. I am always dubious about such large, round number claims, after we are all going to die.
I welcome the extra £20bn, over 5 years, the emphasis on preventative care and the additional funds for mental health - all of which the Liberal Democrats have been pressing the government for over recent years.
- But with a shortage of 42,000 nurses and 11,000 doctors can the NHS deliver all of what is promised? The BBC reported recently that both Bath and Bristol's hospitals missed their A&E targets for patients to be seen within four hours and for planned operations within 18 weeks.
- The emphasis on improvements in the use of digital solutions is sensible. But what about those who are excluded already because of low digital knowledge? This may put them further down the pile which is unacceptable. How will we reach such people in an affordable way?
- There will be genetic testing to identify people at risk. This will also alarm some who are suspicious of government and their private contractors collecting sensitive data about them.
- And still we wait for the government’s proposals for social care - given the council’s lack of money (80% of the budget goes on social care) this requires a solution now.
So, well done Simon Stevens, head of the NHS, but there remain some big question marks over whether the government can make the rest of this happen.