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NHS sets out seven-day service targets

Acute trusts and GPs told to widen access within the next 15 months

Mark Gould

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A quarter of England's population will have access to seven-day hospital services, and a fifth of the population will have better week-round access to GPs and other primary care within the next 15 months, according to new planning guidance published today. 

The guidance has been produced by NHS England, NHS Improvement (the new body which will bring together Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority), the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England, Health Education England and NICE – the bodies which developed the Five Year Forward View in October 2014.

It calls for a return to meeting key targets that demand 95% of patients wait for less than four hours in A&E and all ambulance trusts respond to 75% of immediately life-threatening calls within eight minutes.

The authors say that these changes must be achieved while “embedding a culture of relentless cost containment” rather than trying to grow income. They aim to restore “financial balance” by the end of the next financial year – a tough target given the fact that the NHS was £1.6bn in deficit six months into this one.

NHS England says the targets will be backed up by £560 billion of NHS funding, including a new sustainability and transformation fund which will support financial balance and the delivery of the Five Year Forward View, and also enable new investment in key priorities.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the guidance represented the next steps in making the vision of changing services in the Five Year Forward View a reality.

Jim Mackey, chief executive designate of NHS Improvement, said: “We all know how big the financial challenge that we’re facing is and the next year will be absolutely critical as the NHS gets a grip of the situation.

“Now is the time to stabilise hospital performance and finances so we can give the NHS a firm footing to make the necessary improvements.

“We also need to look seriously at what can be done to realise the long-term improvements needed at a local level and to get on with making changes happen so that patients can rely on strong and sustainable services.”

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