NHS regions will shift funding to primary care, Simon Stevens tells MPs

Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) being finalised by local NHS leaders will definitely see funding and activity shifted into primary care, NHS England's chief executive has told MPs.

Simon Stevens said there was a lot of convergence among the 44 local plans being developed to deliver the the Five Year Forward View around ‘bringing GP practices together, scaling them and integration with community nursing services’.

Giving evidence to the House of Commons health select committee on Tuesday Mr Stevens said as a result over the next three to five years more of the marginal funding increases would go into primary and community services.

The plans will be finalised by local leaders by 29 July before being moderated by NHS England and given the go ahead around October.

What is a sustainability and transformation plan?

Mr Stevens said he was ‘quite encouraged’ by how the conversations between health and care leaders were developing on the ground.

The majority of the country , he said, would have ‘well designed service improvement and change plans that we will be able to back’.

Mr Stevens revealed that NHS England would be bring forward the annual commissioning cycle for 2017/18 and 2018/19 to be done by Christmas 2016, so local leaders will have from October to December to distribute funding for the two-year cycle and from ‘January onwards getting on with it’.

Mr Stevens also used the hearing to call on the government to use the current low cost of borrowing to invest in health infrastructure.

NHS investment

Responding to MPs’ concerns over the NHS capital funding, which is set to remain flat in cash terms over the current spending review period to 2020/21, Mr Stevens said a ‘sizeable chunk’ of this was being converted into revenue to support provider deficits.

‘We will have to make do with whatever capital is available, but it is incredibly constrained,' he said. Mr Stevens said it was ‘an open question’ whether the current backlog of maintenance could be funded.  

‘My personal point of view, he added, ‘is that given the costs of government long-term gilts are now the lowest they’ve been,' he added, ‘it would be an ideal moment to consider an upgrade in the NHS infrastructure.’

GP leaders have warned that in some areas grassroots members of the profession have had little or no involvement in drawing up STPs, with concerns that GP input in the process has been limited to those working in CCG roles.

Photo: Ian Bottle

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