More choice over NHS services no replacement for having staff and capacity to deliver them

Responding to the Health and Social Care Secretary’s ‘vision for long-term NHS reform’, Hugh Alderwick, Head of Policy at the Health Foundation, said:

‘Involving patients in decisions about their care is a good objective – and has been NHS policy for many years. Choice of hospital can benefit some patients, but there is a risk of widening inequalities if the new scheme helps some more than others – such as those living in richer areas with more private hospitals. Patients in poorer areas have seen more disruption and delays to care during the pandemic. Addressing inequalities should be at the heart of any new plans for NHS reform.

‘More choice over where to get NHS services is no replacement for having enough staff and capacity to deliver them. The biggest challenge facing the NHS right now is chronic staffing shortages. The NHS is currently short of around 100,000 staff, yet government has no long-term plan for expanding and supporting the workforce. A fully funded workforce strategy is essential to tackle the growing backlog for NHS care.

‘The proposals also come off the back of a raft of other plans to reorganise NHS structures and integrate services. The secretary of state’s new vision for the system will need to tie these strands together into a coherent narrative to avoid confusion about the direction of NHS reform.’