The health secretary faced questions about today’s fiscal statement and how to protect capacity in mental health services, while the NHS chief executive outlined a plan to work efficiently through primary care to get people referred for cancer symptoms faster.
Underpinning all the discussion in the main hall and exhibition spaces was concerns about how NHS staff will get through this winter while maintaining care for patients, with financial pressure and stretched capacity being compounded by equivalent challenges in social care, alongside workforce shortages, made worse by a potential strike over pay.
WHILE THE SHAPE OF THE SHORT-TERM CHALLENGE HAS CHANGED, IT IS THE SAME LONG-TERM OBSTACLES THAT EXISTED PRE-COVID THAT ARE STILL BEING WRESTLED WITH.
What was striking this week is that while the shape of the short-term challenge has changed, it is the same long-term obstacles that existed pre-covid that are still being wrestled with. Covid has made capacity and financial pressures more acute, but the lack of progress in tackling the long-term success factors of social care capacity, and filling the one in ten vacancies across the NHS workforce, remain almost entirely unaddressed.
And so the Chancellor today confirming new action on both these challenges, will be welcome news to those in the health and care sectors.
Conferences like these are an important way for people to share ideas, spread good practice, network, and often commiserate, but there is a low ceiling on what these gatherings and the people at them, can achieve without genuine progress in improving social care and bolstering the health service workforce.