Measures to support social care over winter welcome but must not be at NHS’ expense

22 September 2022

Responding to a statement in the House of Commons by the health and social care secretary, Dr Thérèse Coffey on the government's 'Our plan for patients', the interim deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Miriam Deakin said:

"Leaders across the NHS will appreciate the prompt steps taken by the health and social care secretary today to address her 'ABCD' list of priorities as we head into winter.

"The announcement of a new £500mn adult care social care fund to help tackle delayed discharges is a welcome boost, which will free up much needed hospital beds for those that need them most.

"But trust leaders will be seeking categorical reassurances that this funding will not be taken from NHS budgets, which are already severely stretched by inflation, energy costs and unfunded pay deals.

"And there needs to be recognition that this is a short-term contribution whereas social care needs a long-term funded plan and reform to put it on a sustainable footing.

"Similarly, while proposals to address punitive pension taxation for senior staff and to increase partial retirement flexibilities are welcome, what we need are broader pension taxation reforms and long-term solutions which address the causes of the issues and are fair for all staff across the NHS, rather than plastering over the cracks.

"Trust leaders  would also have liked to see tangible progress to tackle significant workforce gaps across health and care, with over 130,000 vacancies across trusts in England alone.

"The next few months are going to be very tough across all health and care services. Rising operational demands, a possible 'twindemic' of COVID-19 alongside an early flu season and staff and patients struggling with the cost of living risk making a challenging winter even more difficult for the health service.

"And while additional call handlers for 999 and 111 services will help ease some of the pressure on ambulance services and urgent and emergency care, we need a substantial boost across all parts of the workforce if we are going to tackle the elective waiting list which now stands at 6.8 million alongside substantial care backlogs across mental health, primary care and community services.

"We need to see a fully funded workforce plan - and fast."