New money for the NHS: what does it mean for people with diabetes? – by Chris Askew
I was in the audience for the speech by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, on a new financial settlement for the NHS. In her speech, Mrs May talked about the care that she has received for her Type 1 diabetes and how grateful she was for the NHS’s support. I know how many people with diabetes will echo that. But they will also be wondering what this new funding means for them.
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has analysed the figures and found that it means the NHS in England will get real increases of 3.4% a year for the next five years. This is more than it has had since the turn of the decade, but less than the long-term average. The announcement means extra money will also be made available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although it will be up to individual nations to decide how it is spent.
It does not include public health, training for doctors, nurses and other professionals, capital spending or social care. The Richmond Group of charities, to which Diabetes UK belongs, has been making a clear case that keeping the nation well involves a trio of the NHS, social care and investment in public health. Mrs May said that there would be further announcements about these other parts of the health system later. It is vitally important that this happens.
Now it is down to the NHS to agree how these new increases in annual budgets are to be spent and we have already been making a strong case to the Department of Health and to the top of the NHS for continued investment in diabetes. There is a lot that needs fixing in diabetes and we’re working with the NHS on issues such as access to technology and how to improve services for children.
In England, our top priority is for a continuation of the Diabetes Improvement Programme which is bringing new resources where they are needed most to improve care and save money in the long term. Through a competitive bidding process, local areas are radically increasing the number of education courses they provide and are recruiting to footcare teams in hospitals, to avoid amputations or to ensure that people’s diabetes is well looked after while they are in hospitals. It’s still a bit early to see firm results from these improvement funds, but the vast majority of areas are on track to deliver their plans and we now need to ensure that these vital funds are available in future to continue to improve care.
Meanwhile, the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme is reaching ambitious targets for people going on the programme and for the weight loss they achieve. The diabetes programme is not standing still. As Mrs May said in her speech, Diabetes UK is working with the NHS and Public Health England, to try new digital approaches to help people manage their diabetes and to prevent Type 2.
In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have parallel opportunities to continue with improvement programmes and to maintain and increase committed funding on diabetes care, technology, education and prevention.
One of Mrs May’s five priorities for the NHS was that mental health and mental well-being is seen and treated on a par with physical wellbeing. This mirrors a top concern for very many people living with diabetes across the UK, as evidenced in our Future of Diabetes report, which calls for more support for mental health. In all NHS’s, we need to put together a clear pathway of mental health support for people with diabetes, whatever their needs may be, and we will be making the case for this investment in this key area in the months ahead.
Mrs May’s speech, on the eve of the NHS’s 70th birthday, was an important moment – it gives the NHS some clarity and stability on its headline funding and has taken NHS funding off the political bargaining table. Questions will remain on how these increases will be funded and we will need to see the detail of commitments for investment in prevention and in social care. But for now, we have an opportunity to maintain the focus on investing in good diabetes care and support right across the United Kingdom.