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Our Thoughts on new Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s Priorities

Our Thoughts on new Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s Priorities

The new Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, is not going to have an easy ride in his new role. We've been reflecting on what we think he should focus on in his first few months in post.

Following Matt Hancock’s departure, Sajid Javid has now taken up the mantle to drive the country through this next phase of the pandemic. Clearly the ongoing pandemic is going to be a focus for his efforts but other health matters do not cease to exist because of a pandemic. So what should his priorities be in the months ahead? 

Appropriate Reward and Recognition for NHS Staff 

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a HR consultancy, we believe top of his priority list has to be appropriate reward and recognition for the staff of the NHS who have done so much over the last 18 months.  A recent study from the BMA found 1 in 3 Doctors want to retire early and 1 in 5 want to either reduce their hours or leave the NHS completely. These very real statistics demonstrate just how exhausted our NHS workforce is. Furthermore, many feel devalued due to the 1% pay rise suggested by the Government. There is a lot of work that Sajid Javid will need to do to instil confidence in the NHS workforce that he can support them and the service during this next phase of recovery. 

The Vaccination Programme 

The NHS COVID Vaccination Programme is perhaps the most key intervention to help bring the COVID crisis to an end. However, it is a huge logistical challenge to get the vaccination programme delivered, even without the new announcement of Autumn Boosters. There are still tens of millions of people who are yet to have the vaccination, particularly amongst Black and Ethnic Minority communities. He must focus efforts on ensuring that as many of the adult population as possible have the vaccination as quickly as they can to help us move past this crisis. 

Tackling the Backlog 

Unfortunately, even when we have eventually moved past the COVID Crisis, there is another crisis looming just over the horizon. 5million plus people are on waiting lists for NHS care with nearly 400,000 having waited for over a year now. This will become a very real issue in the coming months as those waiting become more ill and even more pressure will build in the system. The BMA have estimated that it will take several million pounds more than what has been suggested by the Government to address this issue in a timely fashion. As a former Chancellor, he needs to get a grip on the money required as soon as possible.

Mental health

The impact of the pandemic will be felt for years to come and funding needs to be provided for non clinical and clinical mental health services across the country. The Government is under pressure to ensure the country has no more out of area placements for people of any age and do this before the end of the year. New wards go so far but more beds are needed and can only remain open if there is funding. The distribution of infections and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown and associated measures, and the longer-term socioeconomic impact are likely to reproduce and intensify the financial inequalities that contribute towards the increased prevalence and unequal distribution of mental ill-health. People have been affected in different ways depending on their age, demographic background, employment sector, type of job and contract, geographical area, membership of at-risk groups and more. Self-employed, small businesses, people with disabilities, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic background, domestic abuse survivors and informal carers have been identified as high risk groups in this context. Targeted actions is needed to prevent a Mental Health crisis replacing the  physical health one we have seen in the last 18 months. 

Social care

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound impact on people receiving and providing social care in England. Since March 2020, there have been more than 30,500 deaths among care home residents than we would normally expect, and a further 4,500 excess deaths among people receiving care in their own homes (domiciliary care). A recent article by the Health Foundation found that long-standing structural issues have exacerbated the crisis in social care and hindered the response to the pandemic. They are calling for action to prevent further harm. 

Key problems identified by the King’s Fund include means testing meaning some end up paying large amounts and even selling their homes to pay for care; unmet need, many people go without the care and support they need;  quality of care: a wide spectrum of concerns, from 15-minute care visits to neglect and lack of choice and control; workforce pay and conditions: staff are underpaid, leading to high vacancy rates and turnover; market fragility: care providers go out of business or hand back contracts; disjointed care: health and care is not integrated around the individual and causes issues such as delayed transfers of care from hospital; and the ‘postcode lottery’: there is unwarranted variation between places in access to care and its quality. That is quite the “to do” list! 

We could go on but for us, these 5 items should be at the top of Mr Javid’s priorities for the coming months. Its would be a dauting task for anyone, so the question is, is he up for the challenge?