Health leaders have urged the incoming Prime Minister to view the NHS as a ‘building block’ for economic growth, warning him not to underestimate the ‘the direct link between health and wealth’.
Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak was yesterday (24 October) appointed as leader of the Conservative Party, following Liz Truss’ resignation, and became Prime Minister today.
Both he and the current Chancellor Jeremy Hunt have warned of ‘tough decisions’, with many fearing this will mean cuts to public spending.
But Mr Sunak is set to take office ahead of what is largely expected to be the ‘worst winter for the NHS for decades’, with health leaders urging he act decisively to support staff.
Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation chief executive, said this must mean using next week’s fiscal event to ‘ensure patients and local communities are shielded’ from ‘bearing the brunt’ of further ‘efficiency savings demanded of the NHS’.
He said: ‘As former Chancellor, the Prime Minister will understand well the direct link between health and wealth. Our recent analysis clearly shows, every pound invested in the NHS results in £4 back in wider economic activity – so as well as delivering for patients, the NHS can and should be viewed as a vital building block for the economic growth of the country.’
Mr Taylor added that health leaders and their teams will continue to do what they can to improve efficiency in the NHS, but the Government must recognise those efforts will be ‘hampered’ by budgets ‘hit very hard by inflationary pressures’.
Mr Sunak was sworn in as Prime Minister today, after which he made his first statement outside No 10. He will begin appointing members of his cabinet.
It is currently not clear whether the current Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey will remain in post.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, flagged that leaders will not benefit from ‘more political and economic upheaval’.
She said: ‘We need decisive action to tackle funding for public services that is diminishing daily due to soaring inflation, the cost of pay awards not fully funded by the government, and cuts in funding to deal with the ongoing costs of Covid-19.’
She urged the new Prime Minister to work with leaders across the NHS and social care to tackle the problems facing the sector.
Mr Sunak had lost the previous leadership campaign – just last month – coming second place with 60,399 votes, to Ms Truss’ 81,326.
The former Chancellor had resigned from the post in Boris Johnson’s government in July, alongside the then-Health Secretary Sajid Javid.