Reforming and investing in social care would be the best present for the NHS this year

05 July 2022

Commenting on the 74th birthday of the NHS, the interim chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

"There has been much change, and progress, in the NHS over the past year.

"Key milestones have included the passing of the Health and Care Act which enshrines collaboration and integrated services for patients, the Ockenden report which will support safe high quality maternity care, and the publishing of the Messenger Review which help ensure world-class leadership across health and care.

"We also saw the continued roll out of the vaccination programme, digital innovations which freed up more clinician's time to care for patients, and steps to accelerate backlog recovery.

"But this year has also seen huge challenges. While we have moved to the government's plan on living with COVID-19, the virus continues to impact on peoples' lives and livelihoods, their mental health, and the wider economy, and we saw particular pressure over winter and into spring when Omicron emerged.

"The NHS will be in recovery mode for years to come. Staff are working extremely hard to address significant care backlogs across hospitals, mental health and community trusts, at a time of increased emergency demand, with ambulance trusts facing severe pressures.

"Additionally, the government missed the opportunity to address the workforce crisis. Staff shortages continue to be an area of real concern for trust leaders, as well as burn out, and we must see a workforce plan to put workload onto a sustainable footing.

"But the best birthday present the NHS could receive would be reform of and investment in social care. Social care and the NHS are two sides of the same coin, and the failure to adequately fund social care has contributed to additional pressures on the health service.

"Meanwhile, funding announcements for the NHS, while welcome, still fall short of what will be needed. We must be realistic about the scale of the challenge ahead, particularly as inflation and the cost of living crisis which will impact trusts' finances, NHS staff and the health of the wider public.

"And while there has been more recognition of structural racism and discrimination in the NHS, as well as wider health inequalities, there is more that needs to be done to address these.

"In the coming year we look forward to the 10-year plan for mental health and wellbeing, the refresh of the long term plan, the urgent and emergency strategy, and the health disparities white paper. We also look forward to working with national bodies and trusts as the COVID-19 public inquiry gets underway. Above all we look forward to supporting our members as they work with partners to develop and deliver timely, convenient, high quality services for the communities they serve."