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NHS launches 'new towns' offer

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The NHS is seeking to help councils to design “health-promoting” housing developments after admitting the service had shied away from involvement in major schemes.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the NHS had “probably not been terribly good partner on the broader economic housing agenda and the economic participation agenda that many local authorities are…getting their teeth into,” he told the Local Government Association conference last week.

“The NHS wants to play it part.”

Mr Stevens pledge of support for housing developments follows a proposal for health and social care “new towns” in the NHS Five Year Forward View, which was published last year.

Under the proposal, the health needs of future residents will be considered during the planning stage of new developments.

This aims to help the NHS to design modern health services that make the best use of technology and its estate.

Mr Stevens admitted that while councils considered infrastructure such as schools as part of new developments, the NHS was often slow to respond with new services such as GP practices.

One delegate said his council had previously been told there was no money for new NHS facilities when attempting to engage with health services during the planning stage.

Mr Stevens said this was partly because the formula that determines how much funding local NHS commissioners receive took time to catch up with changes in the population size.

He added: “We can’t do this everywhere but in five or so parts of the country that are high growth we have these questions about how we do upfront redesign [of health services] so we don’t just keep doing the same old, same old.”

In a statement released following the speech Mr Stevens said NHS England, in conjunction with Public Health England, wanted to work with councils and others in up to five areas “to design and develop new town partnerships that put innovative health and social care practice at the very heart of urban planning”.

This would include designing-in healthy living, making best use of new technology which can support older people at home and sharing infrastructure across public services, it added.

Local authorities, housing associations and the construction sector are invited to identify projects in England where they would like NHS support in creating health-promoting new towns and neighbourhoods.

These could range from small developments up projects of more than 10,000 units. 

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