What is the NHS Mandate?
At the start of each financial year, the Government updates the objectives for the NHS for the year ahead. As part of setting these objectives, Healthwatch England uses the views that people have shared with us to recommend to Government changes that will benefit people.
The Government has now published the NHS Mandate.
What did we say
In our advice to Government on the objectives the NHS should focus on, we supported the need to continue to focus on tackling the COVID-19 virus and praised the efforts to keep health and care services at near normal-levels during the ‘quieter’ summer months.
We also stressed the importance of several areas relating to the response to COVID-19.
With the vaccination programme underway, the Department for Health and Social Care must ensure the NHS is properly resourced to manage the short and medium-term pandemic response, including delivering the vaccination programme and engaging harder to reach groups, such as those who are housebound.
Dealing with the backlog of care
Alongside this, NHS England and NHS Improvement need to put plans in place to:
eliminate the backlog of care that built up over the last year in areas ranging from cancer screening and diagnostics to dental treatments;
ensure health inequalities won’t be allowed to widen;
explain to those awaiting care how the NHS will manage their cases.
Ensuring communications are accessible
COVID-19 brought about the need to provide care while physically distanced. While this worked for some, for many patients, particularly for people with Learning Disabilities and the D(d)eaf community, communication hasn’t been compliant with the Accessible Information Standard (AIS).
In our advice, we emphasised the need for the Government to set clear expectations around how the NHS should communicate with those seeking care and the importance of meeting the AIS.
Our response to the NHS mandate
With the NHS Mandate now published by the Government, we welcome several important points and commitments that flow from our advice, including:
The focus on tackling health inequalities, in particular the commitment to properly track the uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups compared to the national average.
Reinforcement of the importance of the Accessible Information Standard, and the need for commissioners and providers to ensure they are always meeting it when communicating with people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss.
The renewed promise to bring forward a long-term solution for adult social care. As part of this, the Government has instructed the NHS to continue working with local authorities to embed improvements in hospital discharge.
Continued emphasis on the NHS better embracing technology to improve patient experience, with the Department of Health and Social Care specifically referencing the work of Healthwatch England early in the pandemic which is helping the NHS to ensure that roll-out of these new remote services meet the needs of everyone.
Responding to the publication, Jacob Lant, Head of Policy at Healthwatch England said:
“It is great to see that the views that thousands of people have shared with us have helped shape the priorities the NHS will focus on over the next 12 months.
“Whether it’s making sure that more people are safely discharged from hospital, or tackling health inequalities, it’s good to see Government listening to what is important to the public.”