DORSET'S Health watchdog has raised concerns about the ability of the government to push through its long term plan for the NHS, which was announced yesterday.

Whilst welcoming proposals to increase community care, Healthwatch Dorset Manager, Martyn Webster, said there were 'concerns and question marks' over to what degree the ambitious plans - which include genetic testing for childhood cancer patients - can be turned into reality. "Given the serious staff shortages in the NHS - overall, more than 100,000, there are those who say that these shortages are a greater threat to health services than the funding challenges," he said. "We need to hear what the plan is to address these shortages."

He also attacked the lack of a long-term plan for social care services - seen by most hospital medics as vital in easing the strain on their facilities caused by bed-blocking elderly patients.

"It's been promised for years, but there's still no sight of it," he said. "If we're serious about supporting people to stay well and live independently for as long as possible, then it's vital that there's also significant investment and support for social care services."

The plan, unveiled by Prime Minister Theresa May, promises more money for GPs, mental health and community care.

NHS bosses in England say the 10-year plan, which kicks in in 2023, could save up to 500,000 lives by focusing on prevention. They have promised to fund a host of new measures, including DNA testing of children with cancer, in order to provide bespoke treatments for them.

NHS England confirmed a third of the extra £20bn the NHS will get in 2023 will go on GPs, community care and mental health. Currently they account for less than a quarter of spending, while hospitals take up around half of the £114bn budget.

NHS England is still claiming that spending on hospitals will rise overall and that its proposed measures will create a "new model for the 21st century".

According to NHS England there will be more mental health support in schools and 24-hour access to mental health crisis care via the NHS 111 service.

It wants to see more digital access to health services, including online GP booking as well as healthy living programmes for patients coping with long-term ill-health.

It also claims there will be extra support in the community so patients can be discharged more quickly from hospital which health care experts have identified as one of the NHS's biggest problems.

Overall the NHS's budget should grow at the equivalent of annual rises of just under 3.5 per cent.

NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group's Chief Officer, Tim Goodson, welcomed the plan, saying it: "Very much reflects our own local ambitions and will help to overcome the challenges we face including a growing demand for services and staff shortages."