Next phase for NHS critical for long term recovery of services and ongoing pandemic response

31 July 2020

Responding to the publication of the letter outlining the third phase of the NHS response to the pandemic, chief executive Chris Hopson said:

"The NHS is now entering a critical phase of restarting more non-COVID care and continuing to respond to the pandemic. Today’s news is a stark reminder that the virus will be with us for some time to come.  

"It’s right that today’s letter to the NHS opens with praise and thanks for frontline trusts and their staff. It goes on to provide much needed clarity on the priorities and what is now expected in terms of performance, which is what our members asked for. We also welcome the fact that both trusts and NHS Providers, as their membership organisation, have been fully engaged with what has been set out today.

"The targets set out in the letter look very stretching, We are told they should be deliverable, but we will want to get feedback from members, given the scale of COVID related capacity constraints they are facing. We know from a recent survey of members that they have lost between 20 and 40% of their normal capacity and it will take time to get this back up to where it’s needed to restart services.

"The reality is there is a lot to do, but it’s important that we are ambitious for patients.

"In addition to restarting elective and some cancer care, it’s welcome to see the commitment to reform the mental health investment standard. This is essential if trusts are going to be able to manage the expected upturn in demand for mental health services post lockdown.

"It’s good to see the focus on community crisis services, but additional investment will be needed if the ambitions in the long term plan are to be met.  There also needs to be a longer term commitment to the financial support for trusts providing these services.

"Having got discharge to assess to work effectively, we are nervous about the re-introduction of continuing healthcare assessments. We have moved on from the strategic priority of the first peak, where we had to free up bed capacity at pace, so there is concern that all the great work we’ve done on this might start to slip back because there could be disagreements over who funds packages longer term, which will slow the process down.

"The letter provides a new financial framework for trusts. But we can’t really judge the approach until we know what the financial envelope is for the second half of the year and how that translates into individual allocations for organisations. That’s still being negotiated with the Treasury and probably won’t be finalised for at least another month.

"The renewed commitment to system working and collaboration is also welcomed by trusts but, longer term, we need much greater clarity on accountabilities and governance if revenue funding is to be allocated to systems who currently have no statutory underpinning and no formal accounting officer status.

"Overall the letter provides trusts with a clear and welcome direction of travel as we enter the next critical phase."



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