Unpacking NHS England’s 2023/24 priorities and operational and planning guidance

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The recent publication of the Fuller Stocktake report sets out a new vision for the role of primary care in integrated care systems. Digital technology has a supportive role to play in realising the publication’s future vision.
With the new year upon us, we take a closer look at the NHS’ recently published planning guidance and its key priorities for the health system over the next two years.

As we anticipate what this year might hold for the health system, one thing many would agree on is that it will more than likely be a challenging one. Certainly, NHS England’s new guidance rightly frames its set of priorities in “acknowledgement of the continuing complexity and pressures” teams face today.

With this in mind, NHS England’s plan has been welcomed for its inclusion of fewer targets, promotion of partnership and focus on outcomes. Alongside that focus, some quarters have greeted the plan as a step-change in approach, with less prescription in terms of how teams go about achieving priorities as well as greater flexibility of funding for systems.

But what of those priorities? Broadly this has been grouped under recovery of core services, making ongoing progress on the NHS Long-Term Plan and continued work in transforming the NHS for the future. Within this, a number of national priorities and individual metrics are provided for system leaders, and ICBs are now tasked to work with their system partners to develop plans to meet these national objectives.

Here, we take a look at some of the key areas and system workstreams.

Primary care

A core goal set out in the plan is ensuring people can contact their GP practice more easily by phone, NHS app, 111 or online. Additional objectives include the transfer of lower acuity care away from both general practice and NHS 111, and the recruitment of 26,000 additional role reimbursement scheme roles by 2024.

With the publication of the General Practice Access Recovery Plan due soon, further information on actions to achieve these goals will be forthcoming. For now, the NHS Confederation has rightly highlighted the need for more national support to ensure the sustainability of general practice in order to achieve these goals.

Urgent and emergency care

Key actions include increasing physical capacity in U&EC, boosting ambulance capacity and reducing the number of fit to discharge patients in hospitals. An urgent and emergency care recovery plan will be published in 2023 with more information, backed by £1bn funding for capacity building.

It is said that this may include “general and acute capacity, intermediate and step-down care, and community beds with an expectation that utilisation of virtual wards is increased towards 80% by the end of September 2023.”

Mental health

In keeping with the NHS Long-Term Plan, there is a core commitment to enhance mental health services in 23/24’s planning guidance.

Aims include improving access to mental health support for children and young people and increasing the number of adults accessing IAPT treatment. This comes alongside improving mental health data and the development of system plans to boost the mental health workforce, working in conjunction with ICS partners and wider system stakeholders. Funding has also been allocated for expansion of the mental health workforce particularly in regards to IAPT.

Community health

In community services, objectives include reducing the number of unnecessary GP appointments and meeting or exceeding the 70% 2-hour urgent community response standard. A core focus will be maximising referral from 111 and 999 and expanding direct access and self-referral where a GP is not required.

Funding will also be allocated by NHS England for community health services within the overall ICB allocation growth.

Digital infrastructure

In fulfilling the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan and enabling the future transformation of the NHS, the plan highlights the key role digital has to play. Next to prevention and management of long-term conditions, and addressing workforce challenges, it notes, “the long-term sustainability of health and social care also depends on having the right digital foundations.”

On those foundations, this includes provision of data for population health management as well as digital tools to enable patients to take greater control over their health and care. The ability to offer digital-first healthcare, greater connectivity and integration of the NHS App are also all highlighted as key elements to ensuring patients receive the right care at the right time.

Further information

Full details on all priorities and metrics included within NHS England’s 23/24 priorities and operational and planning guidance, can be found on the NHS England website. A summarised briefing from the NHS Confederation is also available here.

Need support?

Livi can assist health systems in a number of areas.

Find out how we can help expand digital clinical capacity in primary and urgent care as well as mental health IAPT services.

Livi can also deliver GP practice websites built to NHS England guidelines that support self-care, and help signpost patients to the right service at the right time.

For more information, contact our team on