Headlines: October 3rd, 2002

A new three-year planning system is being introduced for the National  Health Service and for social services. The change from an annual planning  round is set out in ‘Investment, Expansion and Reform’ which is published  by the Department of Health.The document also lays down new priorities and details what health and social services will need to achieve in a number of key areas. The Department believes the new planning system will provide more stability and allow the NHS and local authorities to deliver a number of nationally set priorities.

They include making measurable progress over waiting times, patient choice and cancer and heart care and expanding the NHS by increasing staff numbers  and providing more equipment and services.

The targets have been streamlined to include only those which will be managed at a national level and the planning system has also been simplified. Each local area will now need to submit just one three-year plan. The system has been developed by a project board made up from NHS  trusts, local councils, strategic health authorities and primary care  trusts and it is hoped it will allow maximum local flexibility over ways to   meet targets.

NHS Chief Executive Nigel Crisp believes the document sets out ways which  allow real improvements to be made. ” We can expand by recruiting more  staff, developing new services and creating new facilities. Even more importantly we can transform the quality of services by raising standards, tackling health inequalities, making the NHS more accessible and flexible and designing our services around the needs and choices of patients, ” he said.

He said the test of success would be whether people would feel the difference. The development of the plans would involve the public. “In every area our staff, the people using the services and the public need to understand what we are doing, what progress is being made, ” he added.