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NHS to increase community, mental health spends by £4.5bn as part of new digital ICS pledge

Spending on community healthcare will be at least £4.5bn higher five years from now, with health bodies coming together to provide joined-up care in partnership with local government as the NHS plans on having the entire of England covered by integrated care systems (ICSs) by 2021.

Following the publishing of the NHS’s long-term plan today by Theresa May and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, a greater focus will be placed on integrated care, improving outcomes for major diseases, and the commitment to save up to 500,000 more lives over the next decade.

The document states that ICSs “will be central to the delivery of the long-term plan, and by April 2021 [it] wants ICSs covering the whole country,” with the plan to typically involve a single CCG for each ICS area.

The long-term plan noted that CCGs will become “leaner,” with the plan for “more strategic organisations that support providers to partner with local government and other community organisations.”

For the first time in NHS history, NHS England added, primary care, community care, and mental health services, will received investment rising faster than the overall NHS budget— with the minimum of £4.5bn increase in funding being the launching pad for the boost in resources for the sector.

This cash boost is the latest in a series of funding increases for primary and community care: after May’s landmark pledge in June for an extra £20bn for the NHS by 2023, in November the prime minister announced a real-terms investment sum of £3.5bn per year for community and primary healthcare by 2023-24 and committed to a “growing share of spending” for out-of-hospital care.

On top of this, the target for all secondary care providers is to “advance to a core level of digitisation” and to be moved to digital records by 2024.

The plan will also provide digital GP consultations for those who would prefer to use the online service.

“This will cover clinical and operational processes across all settings, locations and departments and be based on robust, modern IT infrastructure services for hosting, storage, networks and cyber security,” the long-term plan wrote.

Chief executive of NHS Providers Chris Hopson said there are “a range” of issues central to the success of the NHS that must be resolved through the spending review this year, including social care and public health.

"We welcome the commitment to an open and consultative process in developing a detailed implementation plan over the next few months,” he added. “It is vital that the expertise and concerns of NHS trusts are central to those discussions. We look forward to making a full and positive contribution."

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