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Achieving goals of Long Term Plan will only come through innovation

by Professor Gary Ford, Chief Executive CBE, Oxford Academic Health Science Network

The New Year brought in the long-awaited NHS Long Term Plan. I welcome its commitment to realise the UK’s world-leading research and innovation for the benefit of NHS patients. The plans to simplify national innovation programmes and strengthen links between AHSNs and other regional support infrastructures should speed up the uptake of new products and service pathways and lead to better patient outcomes and improved efficiency. But they will require creation of more headroom and transition funding to support NHS providers in delivering change.

The Long Term Plan sets out to create a digitally-enabled NHS that empowers patients, supports clinicians and increases the productivity and effectiveness of healthcare staff. Our region is well placed to be at the forefront of digital transformation with the Thames Valley and Surrey Local Health and Care Record Exemplar (LHCRE) and three Global Digital Exemplar organisations.

Our own plans and priorities are well aligned with tackling the major causes of premature death which are a focus of the Long Term Plan. I was pleased to see the inclusion of cardiovascular disease and stroke in these, as the implementation of innovative therapies such as thrombectomy brings substantial benefits and long term cost savings to the health and social care system.

Achieving the plan’s goals in multiple areas of service improvement will be a major workforce challenge which will require a clear focus and relentless commitment to the adoption of innovative, flexible approaches to our future training programmes.

The plan is ambitious in seeking to address challenges such as preventing obesity and alcohol misuse. Whilst NHS services can have an impact on prevention, the main levers to change lie with local communities and national regulation, and require the influence and skills local and national government can bring to these challenges. In that context a major test of the evolving integrated care systems, working across NHS partners and local government, will be the delivery of effective prevention programmes.