The Department of Health and Social Care has today published its key aims for the NHS over the next year.
Some key areas highlighted include the NHS doing more to demonstrate what it has learnt from complaints and feedback, and greater evaluation of the progress being made in mental health.
Alongside the Mandate to NHS England, the Minister has written to us outlining in more detail how the Government is addressing each of the six issues we highlighted in January.
Getting people home safely from hospital
In the letter the government has confirmed they are now actively working with NHS England to bring back ‘emergency readmissions’ as key measure of how well health and care services are doing.
There has been significant focus in recent years on getting people home from hospital faster, which is both better for patients and helps to free up beds. However, it is important that this is done safely, with people able to get the support they need to recover.
In October 2017 our research revealed that emergency readmissions, people returning to hospital within 30 days of being discharged, have risen by 22.8% in the last five years. When we dug deeper we found that more than 1 in 5 of the people affected actually had to return to hospital within just 48 hours.
Earlier this month the National Audit Office echoed our concerns about the way in which such incidents are recorded by the NHS as part of their report on reducing the overall number of avoidable visits to hospital.
Greater focus on evaluating the impact of mental health reforms
Part of our role is to challenge health and social care services to focus on making changes that will benefit the people that use them.
With mental health a top concern for people, we’re pleased the NHS will now be placing a greater focus on evaluating the impact of mental health reforms to see whether they are working.
However, more needs to be done to gain a wider understanding of people’s experiences of mental health. Only by understanding this can we work out whether the changes are improving the quality of care and support on offer.
That’s why we’ve launched a new project to understand people’s experiences of mental health care from childhood to old age.
Reacting to the publication of the NHS Mandate, our Chair, Jane Mordue, said:
“A concerted effort over the last year has seen progress on reducing the number of people stuck in hospital waiting to leave, but we need to make sure people are still being discharged safely.
“By keeping a closer eye on the numbers of people returning to hospital unexpectedly, the NHS and council run care services can identify where things aren’t going to plan.
“More work clearly needs to be done to make sure hospitals, GPs and care services are consistently recording why people come back, but this is an important move by the Government.
“Looking at the wider Mandate, it’s encouraging to see the commitment to evaluating the impact of mental health reforms. The Healthwatch network has made clear that mental health is the number one issue for 2018, and we’ll be sharing people’s views to help the NHS assess the progress it is making.
“This year’s Mandate places a clear expectation on the NHS to meet some tough targets, and we look forward to sharing people’s experiences of the care they receive to help inform the Secretary of State’s annual review of how the health service is performing.”
Find out more
Read the NHS England Mandate to find out more about the key aims for the NHS in 2018-19. You can also find out how the Government will address some of the issues we raised in January in the letter from the Minister of State for Health to Healthwatch England.