Health secretary ‘offered no solutions’ to NHS problems

CREDIT: This story was first seen on BMA News

Jeremy Hunt has failed to offer practical and immediate solutions, despite acknowledging the pressures faced by the NHS, the BMA has warned.

BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said he was disappointed that the health secretary, in his speech to this week’s Conservative Party conference, failed to offer any immediate solutions to the financial and staffing challenges facing the health service.

This was despite Mr Hunt’s early admission in an interview with the Guardian that NHS workforce planning had been ‘woeful’ and that he and previous health secretaries had been too short-term in their approach.

Dr Nagpaul said: ‘It is encouraging that the health secretary has acknowledged that the NHS is under unprecedented pressure, especially as we head into a winter when many services will be pushed to breaking point.

‘However, it is disappointing his speech offered no immediate, practical solutions to the problems threatening to overwhelm the NHS.

‘Hospital, GP and other services are struggling to cope with increased patient demand, especially from an ageing population, on inadequate resources and with widespread staff shortages.

‘As a result, patient care is being compromised daily, with in general practice eight out of 10 GPs saying they are routinely struggling to provide safe care.’

In his speech Mr Hunt pledged to boost the nursing workforce by increasing the number of training places by more than 5,000 per year and tripling the number of nursing associates.

He also outlined plans for a series of 12 flexible working pilot schemes, and insisted he was ‘confident’ EU staff working in the NHS would see their rights and ability to remain in the UK protected.

He said: ‘When you’re losing a loved one, when you’re sick unexpectedly, when you’re knocked sideways by a mental health crisis – the NHS is there. A national health service and a national symbol of British professionalism and British compassion.

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‘But it only exists because of its people. So today I want to recognise that supporting NHS staff is one of our most important priorities.’

While acknowledging concerns around pay and conditions, Mr Hunt gave no further detail in his speech other than to insist that a decision on pay would be taken next year following the advice of ‘independent pay review bodies’.

Dr Nagpaul said the failure to address the issue of the public sector pay cap, which has seen doctors and other healthcare workers endure years of real terms pay cuts, was unacceptable.

He said: ‘It is also regrettable that the health secretary did not address the Government’s pay cap which has meant years of pay cuts and freezes for most doctors and other healthcare workers.

‘We need to support our staff, especially at a time when many are working an increasing number of hours in a difficult environment ito provide more care to patients.

‘Our health service needs the Government to implement a programme of investment that brings spending on our health service into line with those of other leading European economies.

‘We need an NHS that can recognises the incredible strain on doctors and other NHS staff, and most importantly provides them with the support needed to deliver the high-quality, safe care the public deserves.’

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