Health leaders have told health secretary Therese Coffey to ‘empower local NHS leaders’, after flagging it had not been mentioned as one of her early priorities.
In an open letter to the new secretary, the NHS Confederation said NHS leaders need autonomy to make decisions in the interests of their local communities, adding that this year’s NHS reforms were centred on this concept.
It said: ‘We are very supportive of these reforms and believe that you have a rare consensus within NHS leadership on the direction of travel. We urge you to support these reforms as we work to embed them fully at a local level.’
The Confederation also encouraged to look beyond ‘doctors and dentists’ – a key pillar of her ‘ABCD’ approach to the NHS, also encompassing ambulances, backlogs and care.
The NHS employs over one million people across ‘a variety of roles and professions’, it said, with each requiring appropriate attention in a new workforce strategy.
‘This is particularly true in primary care, which has moved on from being a service based around GP appointments. Their teams are made up of multidisciplinary professions providing a broad range of services that keep people well in the community and away from hospital,’ it said.
‘In your support for the NHS this winter, it is vital that you get this across, to aid public understanding around the value of the care they receive from primary care professionals beyond solely GPs.’
The letter was signed by the Confederation’s chair Lord Victor Adebowale and its chief executive Matthew Taylor.
Dr Coffey was also told that leaders identify lack of capacity as a key barrier in tackling backlogs for care, with particular attention drawn to the 132,000 vacancies across provider trusts and the sheer number of GPs leaving the profession.
It said: ‘NHS leaders warn us that winter pressures will absorb all additional capacity available due to care needs from flu and COVID-19. This will mean the NHS will have to continue to work flat out just to stabilise current performance levels.’
The backlog for care currently stands at around 6.7 million people, with a recent report suggesting the enormous growth was only exacerbated by Covid.
Capital investment and boosting workforce capacity is ‘critical’ to ensure continued progress on tackling the care backlogs, it added.
It comes less than two weeks after Dr Coffey was appointed to the role by new Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Last week, Healthcare Leader looked at Ms Truss’ track record on the NHS, her pledges, and what NHS leaders want from the new Government.