The NHS at 70 – will there be another 70 years? Simon makes the case for the future.

From left to right: Geraldine Hetherington, Head of Health & Social Care at Ellwood Atfield; Simon Enright, Director of Communications at NHS England; Carrie-Ann Wade, newly-appointed Director of Communications at North East London NHS Foundation Trust.

Simon Enright gives his views on the future of the NHS at an event co-hosted by Ellwood Atfield and the CIPR Health & Medical Group: “Will there be another 70 years for the NHS? – YES.”


The public loves the NHS and holds it in high esteem.

When asked “what makes you proud to be British”, the most popular response (at 52%) is the NHS. However, the flip-side of this is that there is limited public appetite for change to the NHS yet in order to be sustainable for the next 70 years and beyond, change and evolution – not revolution – is essential.


And evolution is the story of the NHS.

When the NHS treated its first patient in 1948, there were 480,000 in-patient beds in hospitals throughout the UK. Today, there are just 140,000 which is a reflection on the huge change to the NHS that has actually occurred over the years. The NHS has responded to cultural changes and the preferences of patients (and carers) to be treated and cared for ‘closer to home’ rather than in hospital.


In 2011, Panorama highlighted the poor care received by some of those with learning disabilities in a home called Winterbourne View.

Since that time the NHS has committed to cutting the number of those with learning disabilities cared for in outdated inpatient beds: providing care closer to home. But actually this is not a new commitment. Since the mid-80s the NHS has transferred people from these settings to somewhere much more appropriate. In 1987 there were 10 times as many people receiving inpatient care. It is another example of how the NHS has changed.


Longterm conditions are one of the biggest reasons to change, with over 70% of the NHS budget spent on treating and caring for patients with longterm conditions.

The NHS ‘5 Year Forward View’ sets out a clear plan to re-design the NHS, getting serious about prevention, breaking down the barriers between different parts of care, and ensuring that more of the NHS money is spent on the kind of care that matters most to patients. The Five Year Forward View described how if the NHS did nothing, the rising demand would result in an NHS deficit of £30 billion. It suggested three options of future funding which would mean managing that increase in demand with extra investment of between 8 and 22 billion pounds to 2020.


The NHS needs to empower its workforce and the public to create and deliver change.

We need to create an environment where people believe that their own health and the NHS is not too big to change. By combining many simple, small initiatives we can deliver significant change to our own health and also to the efficiency and patient experience within the NHS.


We need to communicate to the public how the NHS works at the local level including using technology more smartly. This is currently being initiated via ‘vanguard’ projects around the UK, whereby simple change plans are being put into practice. If we are truly going to deliver change, we must also focus on improving morale within the NHS and communications can play a significant role in achieving this.


In conclusion, we have a good healthcare system that needs to continuously evolve to meet patient needs and economic requirements.

This evolution must start at the local level in order to gather support and be successful. We need more local ‘change agents’ who are passionate about delivering change and who can influence others to join in our evolution to deliver a sustainable NHS for at least the next 70 years.

NHS presentation

“Whenever I receive an invitation from Ellwood Atfield I know it will be a worthwhile event to attend.  I am always impressed by the selection of keynote speakers, who give great insights into their areas of expertise and the topics are relevant and thought provoking.  It is also great to have the opportunity to network with peers in such pleasant surroundings. Looking forward to the next event!” Edel McCaffrey, Head of Communications, Healthcare at Home.

GH Event
EA Event
EA Event
EA Event
EA Event

Would you like to advance your career or appoint someone?