What the NHS Long Term Plan means for young people

The NHS Long Term Plan was published on 7 January 2019 and focuses on technology, mental health and prevention and recognises the impact of inactivity as a cause of premature death.

This is an ambitious plan that includes a number of commitments which, if successfully delivered will improve the lives of many people. The plan has been lauded for focusing on improving services outside hospitals and moving towards more joined-up, preventative and personalised care for patients.

Long Term Plan Priorities

A key theme of the plan is prevention. NHS England says it believes 500,000 lives could be saved over the next 10 years by focusing on prevention and early detection, however, there is a glaring lack of recognition for the role of physical activity as part of prevention.

The  Sporting Future strategy promised to be a ‘cross-government’ strategy and this is a key opportunity for sport and physical activity to demonstrate its contribution to a national issue.

Obesity is rightly highlighted as a key issue especially for more deprived communities but the focus on improving diet needs to be supplemented with an increase in physical activity and this is not articulated in the plan. The NHS will focus on its aim to make the population ‘fit for the future’ by:

  • Enabling everyone to get the best start in life
  • Helping communities to live well
  • Helping people to age well.

The plan also includes measures to:

  • Improve out-of-hospital care by supporting primary medical and community health services
  • Provide better care for major health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and diabetes
  • Support those admitted to hospital with smoking/alcohol addiction
  • Support older people through more personalised care and stronger community and primary care services
  • Make digital health services a mainstream part of the NHS, so that in five years time, patients in England will be able to access online GP consultations.

Focus on mental health

The proposals around mental health will be welcomed by colleges with a commitment that mental health support for children and young people will be embedded in schools and colleges.

Over the next five years the NHS will fund new Mental Health Support Teams working in schools and colleges, building on the support already available, however only 25% of the country will be covered by the end of 2023.

A further concession in the report is the recognition that 16-18 year-olds are particularly susceptible to mental health issues and that the structure of current mental health services often creates gaps for young people undergoing the transition from children and young people’s mental health services to appropriate support, including adult mental health services.

In response to this issue which has been raised by the AoC Mental Health Policy group, the NHS will extend current service models to create a comprehensive offer for 0-25 year-olds that reaches across mental health services for children, young people and adults.

We know that physical activity has a positive impact on physical and mental health and it is disappointing that this has not been explicitly referenced in the plan.

Hopefully, by August 2019 when we see the detailed publications of local five year plans there will be greater detail about the role of physical activity in creating a holistic approach to improving the health of the nation.

Related Articles:

AoC Sport project finds being active can improve student mental wellbeing AoC Sport and ukactive Research Institute investigate physical activity and sport among college students