NHS England publishes 2023/24 priorities and guidance


NHS England (NHSE) published their 2023/24 priorities and operational planning guidance on 23 December 2022. The full guidance is available here. The document outlines key priorities for NHS spending and focus for the year ahead.  

The guidance sets out 30+ objectives for 2023/24, including:

  • Improve A&E waiting times so that no less than 76% of patients are seen within 4 hours by March 2024.
  • Eliminate waits of over 65 weeks for elective care by March 2024 (except where patients choose to wait longer or in specific specialties).
  • Increase the percentage of patients that receive a diagnostic test within six weeks in line with the March 2025 ambition of 95%.
  • Improve access to mental health support for children and young people in line with the national ambition for 345,000 additional individuals aged 0-25 accessing NHS funded services (compared with 2019).
  • Increase the number of adults and older adults accessing IAPT treatment.
  • Recover the dementia diagnosis rate to 66.7%.
  • Ensure 75% of people aged over 14 on GP learning disability registers receive an annual health check and health action plan by March 2024.

Improving waiting times, access to mental health support

Importantly, the guidance states that the system ought to “deliver a balanced net system financial position for 2023/24”, and meet the 2.2% efficiency target agreed with government and improve levels of productivity.

The annex sets out suggested actions for each objective area, including reviewing workforce needs (and growth plans), purchasing medicines at “the most efficient price point”, reducing outpatient follow-up (a potential key risk for neurology services in particular), and improving the collection and utilisation of data across a number of settings (including mental health, improved automation of activity data collection, and federalised data platform).

Reviewing workforce needs and improving data collection

We particularly welcome plans to reduce waiting times for elective care and increase access to mental health support for adults, children and young people, improved collection and use of data, and reviewing workforce needs.

Concerns: reducing out-patient follow up and representing the neuro community

However, we are concerned that reducing the amount of outpatient follow-up may have an adverse impact on many people with neurological conditions and could mean that they miss out on much needed care. In addition, the potential unintended consequences of targets to cut elective waiting times need to be thoroughly and openly considered. Any plans to address these priorities must be shaped by people and communities, including people with neurological conditions. We will continue to work with and challenge with the NHS to ensure that people affected by neurological conditions are heard and represented.