Responding to the appointment of Victoria Atkins MP as secretary of state for health and social care, president of the Royal College of Physicians, Dr Sarah Clarke said:
“We welcome the appointment of Victoria Atkins MP to her new role as secretary of state for health and social care. There is no doubt of the severity of the challenges that are facing the health and care service. In England, waiting lists are at a record 7.8 million – with an estimated one million people on more than one waiting list for treatment.
“As we have consistently said, retaining the hardworking staff we have now is necessary to bringing down waiting lists and ensuring the health service is able to meet demand now and in the future. This means resourcing the service appropriately. Acting on retention must be the top priority for the new secretary of state, including continuing talks and finding a resolution to industrial action. Getting the basics right including embracing flexible working, improving IT equipment and ensuring staff have time for research and teaching will all make a difference to improve retention of staff. We welcome the secretary of state’s comments on driving forward discussions with trade unions. It is crucial that staff feel valued and supported.
“The Long Term Workforce Plan announced earlier this year was an important first step towards a sustainably resourced NHS and we look forward to working with the secretary of state in its implementation to deliver at least 60,000 more doctors by 2036/37 as planned. It is crucial that government maintains its commitment to lay legislation on Anaesthesia Associate and Physician Associate regulation by the end of this year.
“Reducing health inequalities and avoidable illness is key to reducing demand on our healthcare services. Ultimately, the best way to improve health is to focus on the factors that shape it - health and social care services can only try and cure illnesses created by the environments people live in. The government must maintain its commitment to publishing the Major Conditions Strategy and use it as an opportunity to set out bold action to address the wider determinants of health. The RCP and over 250 members of the Inequalities in Health Alliance (IHA) are calling for a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities. It is only with a joined-up strategy across government to tackle the factors that make us ill in the first place that we will be able to markedly make an impact on reducing the inequalities that are causing and worsening ill health in our population and reducing the trend of increased inactivity in the labour market due to long-term sickness.
“A clear focus on prevention is central to improve the nation’s health and productivity. Given the significant health impacts of the climate emergency, government must take action to tackle climate change. Many of the things we need to do to tackle climate change will also have major benefits for improving population health.
“We look forward to working with the secretary of state on these issues.”