For as long as I can remember our NHS has been a foundation stone in my life - my grandmother was a nursing sister at the Cumberland Royal Infirmary, my mother was also an NHS nurse in my childhood city of Carlisle for a time. Together with many others I have relied upon the service for myself, my children and my husband’s good health for over half a century.
For the NHS to continue to deliver for future generations, we must equip it to meet the challenges of the 21st Century; caring for an ageing population and harnessing ever improving medical technology. This will require significant investment, and I am delighted that the Government has recently committed an extra £20.5 billion by 2023-24.
By giving the NHS the largest cash increase in its history, we are making sure that we protect the health service so it is always there for you and your family. The NHS Long Term Plan announced this week represents a significant step forward in terms of addressing regional and social health inequalities, ensuring our health service delivers for everyone across the nation. The plan will re-dress the balance in terms of clinical health outcomes nationally – especially among those from BAME communities who are currently at a substantially higher risk of poor health, particularly in the areas of mental and maternal health.
That is why we are making money available to address some of preventable conditions which disproportionately affect BAME communities. For example, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be up to six times higher in certain BAME groups. So some of the extra £20.5billion of extra funding we have made available will be used to expand the Diabetes Prevention Programme. Not only is it a key initiative to tackle this disparity – there is also significantly higher take up of the programme among BAME communities than the general population.
In maternity care we can also radically improve the experiences of our BAME communities and tackle the gap in health outcomes. We will be implementing a new targeted model of care for the most vulnerable mothers. Midwifery-led extended care has been shown to significantly improve clinical outcomes. For those mothers who see the same midwife throughout their pregnancy and postnatal care the numbers speak for themselves - 16% are less likely to lose their baby, 19% less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks and 24% are less likely to experience a premature birth. Which is why under the NHS Long Term Plan over three quarters of women from BAME communities will receive this type of care from their midwife by 2024 – not only throughout their pregnancy and labour but also the postnatal period.
It is not only patients who will benefit from this historic investment in our health service. The hardworking staff are the beating heart of the NHS so at the core of the plan is more training and support for them, helping us keep and recruit more staff. Equality and diversity of the NHS workforce is crucial to ensuring the best possible care for all patients, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan will extend the implementation of the Workforce Race Equality Standard. NHS England will dedicate an extra £1million a year to extend the programme to 2025, and each NHS organisation will set its own target for BAME representation across its leadership team and broader workforce by 2021-22 – ensuring senior NHS teams, both at management and clinical level more closely represent the diversity of the local communities they serve.
The NHS Long Term Plan will enable us to have a national health service that delivers for everyone – wherever and whenever you need it. More importantly, it will address the inequality of access, experience and outcomes that currently affects our BAME communities. Equality, diversity and respect are the backbones of our society and they should be the cornerstone of our NHS.
Helen Grant is the Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald