Early focus on winter welcome but NHS fault lines still exist

12 August 2022

Commenting on NHS England's letter outlining the next steps in increasing capacity and operational resilience in urgent and emergency care ahead of winter, interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said: "We welcome this national recognition of the intense challenges all trusts – hospitals, ambulance, mental health and community services – face, and the early acknowledgment that this winter is going to be very pressured for the NHS with the prospect of rising operational pressures, COVID-19 and an early flu season.

"At the height of a summer which has put strain on the NHS, trust leaders are doing everything they can to prepare for another testing winter now. Today's letter to the service outlines a drive for trusts and systems to build on their local plans, with an underpinning commitment from NHS England to support them nationally to boost capacity and increase resilience over winter.

"It's really important we tackle this now rather than at the height of winter and that is very welcome. Mental health trust leaders will welcome the redirected £10m funding which has been outlined to help ease pressures in emergency care and address record demand. It's good to see that mental health has now been explicitly incorporated into a wider winter strategy.

"The letter brings together new and existing proposals. We need to be crystal clear that we must have the workforce and funding in place to deliver this now and for the longer-term. It's critical everyone can keep their eyes on the main prize and we measure the extent to which these actions improve the situation for patients and staff rather than the number of beds created or calls taken.

"We also know that while the steps outlined today are welcome, these are a sticking plaster for the fault lines which the NHS has endured for too long and will not be enough to keep trust leaders' worries about this winter at bay. We desperately need to see a long-term workforce plan to recruit and retain staff, capital investment, proper investment in preventive healthcare and social care reform.

"On a national level, social care and the NHS continue to operate in silos, when in reality the two sectors are very closely intertwined. The lack of social care reform by the government is one of the biggest barriers to our health service being sustainably ready to face yet another busy winter."