NHS Providers responds to comments by Steve Barclay

08 August 2022

Responding to comments by health and social care secretary Steve Barclay in a newspaper interview published today, the interim chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said:

"It is important that the health and social care secretary has called it as it is. He is right that we need to act immediately, in particular on social care.

"There is widespread pressure across the NHS, and we know that in urgent and emergency care demand continues to outstrip capacity – jeopardising patient care and safety.

"There has been no let-up over recent months and NHS trusts are braced for a challenging time ahead, with the potential for further COVID-19 waves and a bad flu season.

"Despite progress for those waiting longest we still have more than 6 million people waiting for treatment as well as significant backlogs in community and mental health care. But chronic staff shortages, predating the pandemic, mean that all types of services throughout the health and care system are struggling to meet ever-growing demand.

"We need to boost workforce numbers quickly. Overseas recruitment is one important route.

"However, we need to recognise also that retaining our existing staff is equally important. The government must fully fund the recent pay offer, as frontline services depend on funding not being redirected to pay. And it must recognise what trust leaders are telling us: that, for their staff, the offer does not keep pace with the increasing cost of living. Trusts are doing what they can to support struggling staff but pay is out of their hands.

"For the coming months we need action on workforce, including consistent support to use temporary staff where needed, and capital investment to create physical space and enable digital improvements.

"But more than that, the government must ensure that the NHS has a desperately needed long-term, sustainable workforce plan as soon as possible and long-term investment in and reform of social care."