Summary of the NHS Priorities 2023/24 and Operational Planning Guidance

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Breaking down the key points of the NHS National Objectives 2023/24.

NHS England has recently announced its key priorities for 2023/24, along with new operational planning guidance for systems. Xytal has put together a summary of this report for NHS staff looking to understand what the key priorities will be within the NHS over the coming year.

As an overview, NHS England has laid out its three main tasks for the year ahead:

Recovering core services and productivity, this involves:

Improving the patient experience, outcomes, and safety. This means improving ambulance response and A&E waiting times, reducing elective long waits and cancer backlogs, and making it easier for patients to access their GP surgeries. NHS England believes the way to reach these targets is to improve staff retention and attendance.

Delivering the key NHS Long Term Plan ambitions:

NHS England will continue to work with ICSs to support the delivery of the NHS Long-Term Plan. This includes the prevention and management of long-term conditions, improving mental health services, and improving services for people with learning disabilities and autism.

Continuing with transforming the NHS for the future:

The transformation of the NHS involves using feedback from NHS staff to drive continuous improvement, thereby creating a sustainable health service. Both the Long-Term Plan ambitions and the transformation of the NHS involve significant improvement to the NHS digital services.

Under the umbrella of these three main tasks, NHS England has outlined the key objectives for 2023/24 by area.

Objectives within ‘Recovering core services and productivity’

Urgent and Emergency Care (UEC)

Significant funding will be allocated to emergency care to meet the new targets set. NHS England will also be working with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to develop a recovery plan for reducing hospital bed occupancy levels.

Community Health Services

Expanding direct access and self-referral options will be key. This is hoped to empower patients to take more control of their health needs, as well as reduce the number of unnecessary GP appointments.

Primary Care

NHS England is releasing the General Practice Access Recovery Plan in the new year. This plan has been put in place to try and reduce the significant pressure that primary care is currently facing. This will include steps toward making working in primary care a more appealing option for NHS staff.

Elective Care

Achieving the targets set out for elective care depends on Covid-19 levels reducing to and staying at a low level. Targets will be agreed upon with local systems based on the assumption of Covid-19 levels being similar to the last 12 months. ICBs and Trusts will be asked to update their system plans accordingly.


NHS England is working on comprehensive strategies for early diagnosis. Cancer Alliances and ICBs will work together to implement these strategies at a local level.


NHS England has stated that improving diagnostics is key to building a high-quality and responsive health service. They continue to support the development of the new Imaging Networks, as well as significant funding being spent on improving digital diagnostics and updating ageing equipment.

Maternity and Neonatal Services

NHS England will be publishing a single delivery plan to improve maternity and neonatal services. Funding will continue to go towards increasing the number of midwives in the service.

Use of Resources

ICBs and providers are being asked to work together to develop plans to increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve inventory management.

Objectives within ‘Delivering the key NHS Long Term Plan ambitions’ and ‘Continuing with transforming the NHS for the future’

Mental Health

Systems are being asked to continue with steps to grow the NHS mental health services in line with the NHS Mental Health Implementation Plan.

People With a Learning Disability and Autistic People

Funding has been allocated to systems to help them with local delivery against NHS objectives. There is a continued focus on admission avoidance and improving the quality of the services.

Embedding Measures to Improve Health and Reduce Inequalities

This involves long-term plans to improve overall population health by using prevention strategies, as well as continuing to deliver against the strategic priorities for tackling health inequalities. ICB and system plans will be developed in partnership with public health, local authorities, VCSE, and other partners.

Investing in Our Workforce

There will be an increase in investment in staff education and training. This is hoped to increase the levels of staff retention and productivity. There will also be more options for flexible working practices available to NHS staff.


Funding will be provided to help ICSs to meet minimum digital foundations. The NHS App will also have increased functionality to help give patients greater control over their health.

System Working

2023/4 is the first full year for ICSs and systems in their new structures. NHS England is encouraging ICBs to focus on research and innovation in order to improve patient outcomes, care, and experience.

There is a simplified table available of the key objectives including the updated NHS targets. Please find it at the bottom of the page.


NHS England will be issuing two-year revenue allocations for the upcoming years 2023/24 and 2024/25. The total ICB allocations remain flat (in real terms) but there is also additional funding available to increase capacity. National capital allocations will be increased by £300 million, and this funding will be majority earmarked for systems.

So, what’s next?

ICBs are being asked to work with systems to use both the national objectives, as well as local system objectives, to develop their plans for the next year. System plans should take into consideration activities, workforce, and finance. These plans will then be signed off by the ICBs and trust boards before the end of March 2023. The requirements for these plans will be released separately by NHS England - advice and guidance on developing plans are available via FutureNHS.

ICBs and their partner trusts are also being asked to create five-year Joint Forward Plans (JFPs) at the start of every financial year. Guidance for this is available on the NHS website. Systems are encouraged to use the JFPs to develop a shared delivery plan for the integrated care strategy and the joint local health and wellbeing strategy.

To read the full report from NHS England, please follow the link.

Below is a simplified table available of the key objectives including updated NHS targets:

National NHS objectives 2023/24
National NHS objectives 2023/24

Xytal has put together a summary of this report for NHS staff looking to understand what the key priorities will be within the NHS over the coming year.