Following the Government’s announcement to increase NHS funding over the next 5 years and its request that the NHS develops a ‘10-year plan’ for how this additional funding will be used, Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has put forward five key priorities for the next decade, writes Alex Griffiths for Hospital Times.

These identify mental health services, cancer, cardiovascular disease, children’s services and health inequalities as the five key areas of focus for the future development of the NHS.

Improvements in mental health will specifically target children and young people’s services. This long-term objective will be pursued with an increased emphasis on addressing mental health problems within schools.

Following up on previous NHS targets to boost cancer outcomes, Stevens has stressed the importance of improving screening services to achieve earlier diagnoses and interventions. In addition to this, he has put forward a new focus on cardiovascular disease in light of evidence that the NHS is lagging behind on outcomes in this area.

The final two priorities are much broader and consist of a renewed focus on improving children’s services and on reducing health inequalities across the entire population, in particular, eliminating discrepancies in life expectancy between different socioeconomic groups.

Stevens has stated that the 10-year plan will contain additional priorities targeting current barriers to sustainability in the NHS. These recognise that prioritising prevention and addressing wider determinants of public health and wellbeing are crucial to successfully managing demand for health and care services. Central to this is the commitment to further develop and accelerate the spread of new care models oriented around integrating and simplifying local health and social care services.

This commitment to integrating health and social care has been echoed by Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, Niall Dickson, who said: “There are real opportunities of course but to make the system sustainable we need to drive forward with new ways of providing care in the community and reducing pressure on hospitals.”

Simon Stevens will spend the coming months sketching out key priority areas for the NHS over the next decade, with Prime Minister, Theresa May, stating that the details of the new 10-year plan will be agreed between the government and the NHS later this year.

Central to creating a sustainable NHS for the future is the need to focus funding on the transformation of health and care services in a way that addresses prevention and maximises resilience within communities.

Achieving this is likely to require engagement across government departments as well as partnerships with local authorities to target broader factors that determine individual health and wellbeing such as poverty, housing and access to employment.

Simon Stevens has already highlighted the important role schools have to play in improving mental and physical wellbeing outcomes for young people. However, if the NHS is to meet the wider objectives of tackling health inequality and increasing prevention and community resilience, prioritising greater engagement with wider public services will be necessary.

The crucial challenge will be ensuring that the additional funding is not simply used to fill current finance gaps within the NHS but can be applied in a way that will bring about sustainable long-term transformation of its services.