Much to welcome in new Health and Care Act but lack of NHS workforce planning a major, missed opportunity

28 April 2022

Responding to the Health and Care Bill, which received Royal Assent today to become the Health and Care Act 2022, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson said:

"The Health and Care Act heralds the biggest legislative reforms to the NHS in a decade.

"There is much to welcome in this landmark legislation and both NHS Providers, and the trust leaders we represent, are proud of the part we have played in shaping the bill.

"Putting integrated care systems on a statutory footing will support local leaders to make significant improvements to the physical and mental health of their communities.

"This is critically important as we seek to rebuild population health and tackle health inequalities following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Similarly, the decision to put the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) on a statutory basis and the acceptance of a key amendment to prevent coroners having access to protected materials is an important win for patient safety.

NHS Providers consistently warned that letting coroners access information collected by HSSIB could have a chilling effect on the sharing of crucial information during the course of an investigation.

"NHS Providers consistently warned that letting coroners access information collected by HSSIB could have a chilling effect on the sharing of crucial information during the course of an investigation. We are pleased common sense prevailed.

"We are also pleased to have secured safeguards in relation to capital spending limits for foundation trusts and on the reconfiguration of local health services.

"It is positive that the government heeded our concerns on these important issues. Measures to protect local accountability in the NHS, to minimise political interference in local decisions and to ensure reconfigurations do not endlessly drag on again were much needed improvements to the bill.

But we must also recognise the elephant in the room: the major, missed opportunity to introduce a statutory duty to ensure proper long term workforce planning in the NHS.

"But we must also recognise the elephant in the room: the major, missed opportunity to introduce a statutory duty to ensure proper long term workforce planning in the NHS, which will have ramifications for the health service for years to come.

"The lack of progress on NHS workforce planning risks being the biggest, unwelcome, legacy of this act.

"The NHS currently has 110,000 staff vacancies. For far too long we have asked the impossible of our workforce with large numbers of staff regularly working extra unpaid hours and far too many of our colleagues reporting illness due to work related stress.

"This is increasingly putting patient safety at risk and quality of care under unsustainable pressure.

"More than 100 health and care organisations called for a robust approach to long term NHS workforce planning but our pleas went unheeded.

"This act cannot and should not be the last word on NHS workforce planning. We must find a way forward so the NHS workforce can be put on a sustainable footing."

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