The NHS in England has published a 10-year plan setting out what it will be prioritising in the future, focusing on prevention and early detection. The 136-page plan will see money shifted from hospitals to GP practises, mental health and community care. Ministers announced the budget will be increased by £20bn a year by 2023.
Rob Percival, Head of Policy at the Soil Association commented:
The NHS has a vital role to play in supporting people to stay healthy – it’s encouraging to see prevention given such a prominent role in the NHS long term plan.
"It’s particularly encouraging to see interventions aimed at reducing obesity and diabetes within the plan. Dietary ill health, as a driver of both obesity and diabetes, threatens both the long-term viability of the NHS and the wellbeing of millions of adults and children. While the plan focusses on interventions targeted at high-risk groups, we’d suggest that more ambitious population-level action is also needed.
“If the NHS is to truly ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to prevention, then it must ensure that every hospital is normalising good food for patients, staff and visitors. We welcome the plan’s commitment to revised hospital food standards this year but monitoring of compliance is key. In 2015 all NHS Trusts were required to develop and maintain a food and drinks strategy that ensures healthier food, delivered sustainably, for the whole hospital community – there has been insufficient monitoring of compliance. When the revised hospital food standards are launched, NHS Trusts must be encouraged to demonstrate that they are meeting the standards, including through third party accreditation schemes such as Food for Life Served Here.
“Ultimately, the plan will only succeed if the Government reverses the damaging cuts to public health and local authority budgets that it continues to pursue. Next year's public health grant will cut spending by £240m in real terms, with per capita spending reduced by 25% since 2014/15. The NHS long term plan sets the ambition of keeping people healthy and tackling entrenched health inequalities. It is entirely nonsensical that the Government continues to cut public health funding, even as the NHS sets this ambition.”
NHS trusts have a unique opportunity to lead by example and make hospitals a consistently health-promoting environment in addition to providing appetizing, nutritious and sustainable meals to all.
Find out how Food for Life hospital programmes support the health and nutrition of NHS staff, patients, and visitors.