West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has set out his priorities in his first speech as Heath Secretary and has promised to fight for NHS staff, pledging funding of almost £500m to help the NHS invest in digital technology.
The new Health Secretary told staff at West Suffolk Hospital that the money would “help jump start the rollout of innovative technology aimed at improving care for patients”.
Some £400m will be provided to hospitals to invest in technology that improves patient safety and allows more people to access health services at home, and £75m will be set aside to enable NHS trusts to acquire digital systems that increase efficiencies and reduce errors when compared with paper-based platforms.
“Of course, money alone won’t work,” Hancock said. “We will put in place the data standards, and support the workforce to adopt change too. Some of this is about inventing new technology but, in lots of places, it is about adoption – because we know there are places where this technology is working.”
Setting out his three “early priorities” of Workforce, technology and prevention, Hancock seaid
“They are intertwined and they cut across everything my department does. Whether from the social care providers looking after the most vulnerable in society to NHS England commissioning services, to every GP practice and every public health official and everyone who provides care for their fellow citizen – family or stranger alike. One NHS and social care system, working together to improve patient safety and outcomes.”
In a spirit of collaboration, not competition, towards our common goal. This is an important moment. As a country we have decided to invest £20 billion more in funding for our NHS.
And as a country we need to find a sustainable approach to fund fair social care for all.
Now is a moment to define how these sums are spent for the next generation.
The amazing workforce must feel more involved and I want to see health and care professions as the very best places to work.”
Responding to Matt Hancock’s speech, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“This funding is good news for the sector, but it should be focused on delivering on joint local priorities rather than simply NHS national priorities.
“It is essential that councils have a significant input into local decisions on how this funding is used so that data is effectively shared in the interests of people using services and processes are streamlined across health and care systems.
“It’s good to see the Secretary of State’s focus on prevention which is the surest way to reduce hospital admissions and reduce pressures on the NHS and adult social care, which needs to be put on an equal footing with the health service.
“While significant new money has been announced for the NHS, no new money has been pledged for councils’ public health teams or adult social care which remains in desperate need of a long-term funding settlement.
“Reductions to public health budgets also need to be reversed to enable councils to continue to help people to live independently and well, which will help ease demands on the NHS and social care and save money for the public purse.”
Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Mental Health Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said:
“While the opportunity to draw focus on mental health was missed, many items on the Secretary of State’s list of priorities will have drawn nods of approval from our members.
“In mental health we know prevention is best, so it was a huge positive to see the health secretary’s focus on transforming the system so that demand can be managed. We also welcome his commitment to the workforce – earlier this year a 10th of job posts in mental health were vacant and we need an extra 21,000 mental health posts by 2020.
“More fundamentally, mental Health services are lacking the funding they need. So we look forward to working with the new Secretary of State to put things right through the long term NHS investment.”
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the health and care sector, said:
“The priorities outlined by the new Secretary of State are very encouraging and will strike a positive chord with our members who have long argued that workforce, technology and transformation to develop services in the community are central.
“Next we need to see the detail. It is imperative clinical staff and the public are involved in shaping any long-term plan – but crucially this must be a health and care plan, not an NHS plan.
“In March the Prime Minister promised to correct the mistakes of previous Governments by putting an end to ‘siloed’ working and integrating health and social care so that demands on the NHS are better managed. This work must begin now, not later, otherwise we risk slipping back into the age-old habit of fighting NHS fires rather than planning for the long-term.”