Improving patient experience and access have been announced as key priorities in the government's new Operating Framework for the NHS.
The five key priorities set out are:
David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS said: "The Operating Framework provides a real platform from which local NHS organisations – and the patients and communities they serve – will have a much stronger voice in determining their own priorities. "
Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents over 95% of NHS organisations, said: "The national priorities in the operating framework reflect what matters to patients and the public, and NHS management is clear it must deliver on this agenda.
"We agree that some things should be centrally prescribed and there is a need for national targets which are carefully constructed and flexible enough to drive improvement at a local level.
"The intention to move towards greater autonomy at a local level in the health service is welcome. However, rhetoric does not match reality. The framework is much more prescriptive than the five national priorities might initially suggest.
"NHS leaders believe there is already too much on both what the NHS should be doing and how. In this context it is important that the proposed 'raft of indicators' or 'vital signs', though welcome in principle, do not turn into national targets for performance management. "
Steve Barnett, director of NHS Employers, which represents trust on workforce issues, said: "Giving staff at local level a voice and providing them with a rewarding work environment is crucial if employers are to deliver the best possible services to patients.
"We welcome the acknowledgement that the workforce is at the heart of improved patient services and that staff satisfaction is fundamental to this. There are well-established links between trusts that have high staff satisfaction levels and those that deliver the highest quality services for their patients."
David Stout, director of the PCT Network, said: "PCTs might control more of the NHS budget but the level of prescription means the space for discretion is limited. The framework confirms that SHAs can set contingency reserves at any level they like when we believe this should be the responsibility of PCTs."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"Dr Gill Morgan states that 'the national priorities in the Operating Framework reflect what matters to the patients and the public'. In the national patient survey on access, 84% of respondents stated that they were happy with existing GP opening hours. So, in this case, we are actually being asked to respond to what matters to a small minority of patients. It seems to me that the goverment should save the large amount of money they are spending on patient consultation and continue to impose what they believe to be important – or perhaps Gill Morgan or Alan Johnson can explain to me why, despite public opinion obtained in their own survey, they are insisting that GPs extend their opening hours" – Allan Stewart, Bebington