NHS leaders call for concrete proposals

Senior NHS figures fear that the leadership contest is not addressing wider health service needs

NHS leaders are warning that both candidates vying for the job of future Prime Minister have so far failed to show a clear appreciation of the pressures facing the health service or propose any meaningful long-term solutions.

The NHS Confederation – on behalf of NHS leaders – has written letters to both candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, laying out deep concerns about the significant challenges facing both the NHS and social care, while also outlining what is needed from the Government and next Prime Minister to address these.

NHS leaders are clear there needs to be a ‘realism reset’ on the NHS – essentially, a dose of political honesty and levelling with the public about what the NHS is facing and what it needs to address it. They warn that instead, the Government must now tackle head on three key issues affecting the NHS.

The most pressing is the need for a fully costed and funded workforce plan to deal with the 105,000 vacancies in the NHS and 165,000 vacancies in social care – additional capital investment to upgrade much of the crumbling estate, buildings and infrastructure, alongside a rescue package for social care which they say remains far from ‘fixed’, as the Government claim, which is leading to significant extra demand on the health service.

The culmination of these challenges mean the NHS is currently facing ‘winter in summer’ and health service leaders are sounding the alarm that they are approaching the coming months with extreme trepidation. Without action from the Government, they caution that patient safety will continue to be put at risk.

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, explained: “As we approach the final weeks of the Conservative Party leadership race and wait to find out who our next Prime Minister will be, healthcare leaders are approaching winter with a real sense of foreboding.”

“They are urging both the remaining candidates to inject their public debate with a sense of urgency and show a real understanding about the huge pressures the NHS and social care are under. We need both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss to demonstrate a heavy dose of realism about the state of the NHS and the promise of an open, frank and honest conversation about what this means.

“To truly level with the public they must acknowledge that this means crumbling buildings and ill-equipped outdated estate, 105,000 NHS staff and 165,000 social care vacancies at the last count, and a social care system in desperate need of repair and very far from being fixed as the current Prime Minister would have us believe,” he added.

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