NHS bodies give Prime Minister ‘to-do’ list on health and social care priorities

NHS bodies have presented the new Prime Minister with a “to-do” list, asking him to address major areas of “unfinished business” that are damaging patient care.

Boris Johnson must prioritise the NHS staffing shortfall and provide extra money for new buildings, infrastructure and social care, the NHS Confederation said.

It says the question of long-term NHS funding is not fully resolved and that the pensions crisis must be addressed ahead of winter, which will bring increased pressure.

It is also calling on Mr Johnson to ensure that patients do not suffer as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The Confederation, which represents 500 organisations in the NHS, voluntary and independent sectors, has written to the new PM, outlining what should be top of the agenda during his leadership.

In its letter, which first addresses social care, it says: “For more than 20 years, successive governments have failed to address this challenge, but there is now a chance for decisive action.

“We would be keen to support both an immediate recognition of the current crisis and a bold move to establish a cross-party solution to deal with the fundamental reform that is so badly needed.

“We very much hope you will regard this as a potential legacy issue – it is certainly one your predecessors have conspicuously failed to grasp.”

The letter also says that gaps in the workforce pose the “biggest single challenge” facing the health and care sector, and warns Mr Johnson that the mounting pensions crisis will grow throughout the winter months if he does not deliver “bold and decisive action”.

The NHS Confederation said it is “particularly anxious” that the medical supply chain is protected after Brexit, and that patients in the UK and Europe “do not suffer as a result of changing arrangements”.

Its chief executive, Niall Dickson (pictured), said: “The Prime Minister’s to-do list is full with NHS issues that need solving now: social care is a national disgrace, NHS pension inflexibilities are lengthening waiting times, and a lack of capital funding is hampering hospitals trying to improve services for patients.

“On top of this, we have 100,000 staff vacancies which are damaging patient care.

“The Prime Minister has been in post a matter of days but we welcome his early personal commitment to addressing these issues.

“He needs to act with speed and conviction and we will work with him and his Government to help find the right solutions.”

The body has asked for an urgent meeting with Mr Johnson or his advisers.

David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: “Since the NHS was created over 70 years ago, successive prime ministers have been accused of being hell-bent on ‘privatising’ the NHS.

“It is vital that the Prime Minister debunks this myth, moves on from the tired arguments of ‘public good, private bad’, and instead starts tackling the real challenges that the NHS faces.

“This must include concerted action on reducing waiting times for planned care, which are now at their highest level for a decade, with the Government on course to have over 5.3 million people on an NHS waiting list by May 2022.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has made clear his commitment to the NHS, and to reforming the social care system.

“As he said outside Downing Street, we will shortly begin work on 20 hospital upgrades, and ensure that money for the NHS really does get to the front line.

“We thank the NHS Confederation for their letter and will respond fully in due course.”

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We’ve heard months of talk about fixing the social care system, but are still no closer to seeing the actions behind these words.

“The Prime Minister has a chance to end decades of dithering and make a difference for the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK today.

“The social care crisis isn’t going to go away unless we see a complete overhaul, and the reform so desperately needed within social care will also enable the NHS to better meet people’s needs.”

Dr Moira Fraser-Pearce, of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Tackling this crisis must be an urgent priority for the new PM and the Health and Social Care Secretary, who must ensure there is a funded plan to grow and sustain the NHS and care workforce.”

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