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Why Coffey's NHS plan has left many unimpressed

Tinkering around the edges, the King's Fund said. A few short-term fixes, according to the Health Foundation. And a plan that will have minimal impact, the Royal College of GPs added.

These were just a handful of the reactions from those involved with the NHS. And they were not even from organisations usually at the front of the queue when it comes to criticising government policies.

So why has Therese Coffey's first announcement as Health Secretary for England received such a negative response?

The fact is the problems the health and care system are facing are deep-rooted. Much is made of the impact of the pandemic but the health service was already struggling before Covid hit. The pandemic has simply exacerbated the situation.

At the heart of it all is a lack of staff.

Addressing this is not easy and cannot be done overnight. It takes five years to train a doctor, three a nurse, which is why there is a big push on international recruitment at the moment.

To free up GP appointments, pharmacists are being asked to take on some of their workload, while funding rules are being relaxed to allow GPs to use more of their money to recruit senior nurses.

But there is nothing in the plan about where these new senior nurses are going to come from, which is why the Royal College of GPs has been so dismissive.

It is a similar story for hospitals services, where accident-and-emergency waits, ambulance response times and the backlog in routine treatments such as knee and hip replacements have all worsened in recent years.

Coffey is also introducing a £500m fund to get thousands of medically fit patients out of hospital as soon as possible. Local areas will decide how to spend the money and it could allow hospitals to pay for extra help at home for patients who need it.

But it amounts to little more than a sticking plaster and is an approach already used to relieve the pressure during the pandemic. The real issue is the care sector is short of staff, with even more vacancies than in the NHS.

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Source: BBC News, 22 September 2022



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