Recovery and support a priority for NHS leaders

Sir Ron Kerr profile picture

22 March 2021

Sir Ron Kerr
NHS Providers

This week, we hosted our first chairs and chief executives network of the year, bringing together health leaders to debate and share insight into key topical areas of concern for the NHS. While there is certainly cause for optimism as we begin following the roadmap to ease lockdown measures and are witnessing an efficient vaccination roll out, our latest network explored the significant pressures still looming for NHS trusts.

We were joined by our own chief executive Chris Hopson who gave a strategic policy update on the current external political environment, what next steps NHS leaders will have to consider and long-term planning. NHS England and NHS Improvement's chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard and chief people officer Prerana Issar also delivered updates on the current state of play for the NHS and key priorities and considerations for the NHS workforce. Throughout each presentation and Q&A sessions there was one recurring theme at the heart of every discussion: recovery and support.

Throughout each presentation and Q&A sessions there was one reoccurring theme at the heart of every discussion: recovery and support.

Sir Ron Kerr    Chair

Despite a difficult year, we've learned

As we've grown to understand the demands of living in a pandemic during the last 12 months, NHS trusts and frontline staff have shown resilience and innovation that has delivered a wide range of beneficial changes at an accelerated pace. For example, Chris highlighted, in June 2020, 99% of trusts reported rapid innovation in how they delivered services, with 86% having increased capacity for remote services via video and telephone appointments. One of our delegates highlighted that as the sector continues to develop ICSs, there is now a good opportunity to promote a shared learning culture. It has been encouraging to hear from trust leaders about the activities and successes their organisations have achieved during this time, with all emphasising how much collaborative working has developed over the last year.

Recovery and support for NHS workforce

Quite rightly, the chairs and chief executives attending our network raised many questions on the recovery of their services, how they support their staff to decompress and how to deal with the increasing demand of non-COVID services. A key and valuable part of our network agenda, our Q&A sessions promote debate and shared understanding of challenges currently facing our trust leaders, giving them an opportunity to speak directly with sector leaders to hear their insights.

Chris, Amanda and Prerana each identified how important it is to ensure that, moving forward, policy and activity on recovering services and supporting staff would recognise that trusts starts from different places and each member of staff will have their own individual recovery and support needs. Staff and services must be supported to recover in a way that suits them. As we begin to descend from the recent COVID-19 peak after a winter not quite like one we've seen before, significant pressure remains. Critical care and community services remain under significant pressure, the care backlog continues to rise and there is growing concern for workforce retention as staff are exhausted and facing high levels of burnout.  As Amanda summarised: "Nothing happens if we haven't got the right people, and are supporting them to do their roles".

During her session, Prerana also discussed the People Plan, detailing that keeping people safe and supported, being open and inclusive and expanding workforce supply were key areas of future focus. Each of our speakers addressed inclusivity and the importance of tackling health inequalities and inequalities within the NHS. Both Chris and Prerana's sessions pointed to the latest WRES report and the current work NHS England and NHS Improvement are doing to support and engage with Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, whilst highlighting how much work is yet to be done in this area.

Our latest chairs and chief executives network yet again illustrated the importance of touching base and engaging with our NHS colleagues in solidarity at the common challenges we each face, while also giving the opportunity to hear and understand individual concerns from across the health sector. The NHS still has a way to go, with difficult decisions to come and much to consider both in the short and long-term. I encourage you to join us for our next network on Thursday 1 July 2021.


About the author

Sir Ron Kerr profile picture

Sir Ron Kerr

Ron has spent all his career in the health and care sector and has been a chief executive at national, regional and local level for over 30 years, latterly as chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust until 2015. He is currently independent chair of Healthier Together, the Sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and a board member of Genomics England Ltd. He is also a trustee of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and King’s College London. He was knighted for services to the NHS in 2011.

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