The Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay MP delivered his first major speech in post to the NHS Providers annual conference on Wednesday. The speech aimed to set the tone of Mr Barclay’s leadership of DHSC as well as provide more details about his priorities going forward. Mr Barclay clearly wanted to dispel any myths that he would be a miserly Secretary of State, promising to fight to ensure the NHS was funded adequately. He claimed his experience in both No 10 and the Treasury meant he was well equipped to make the best case possible for health.
Mr Barclay named his key priorities as addressing workforce challenges and focusing on elective recovery to reduce the backlog. To ensure that winter pressures are eased, he pledged to recruit more staff to the NHS 111 and 999 services.
He heralded the £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund, which will ensure that those who are unnecessarily occupying hospital beds are safely moved from hospital into social care. This will be available to ICBs and local authorities when bed occupancy is at 94%, with the first tranches to be released in December and January. Indeed, a theme which ran throughout Mr Barclay’s speech was the empowerment of ICBs to use their population data and local experience to best manage their areas.
A further priority for Mr Barclay is access to GP services, which he promised to combat through a greater primary care workforce. He also signalled his desire to harness the latest technologies to save more lives and make the NHS more efficient. The appropriate and innovate use of data would be crucial to this, he stated. Moreover, by investing in cutting-edge technologies the UK would be closer to its goal of becoming a global science superpower.
Interim Chief Executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery reacted, saying: “Trust leaders will welcome reassurances from the health and social care secretary that he has been batting on the NHS’ behalf in negotiations with the chancellor ahead of tomorrow’s fiscal statement.”
However, “Leaders across the NHS will scrutinise tomorrow’s fiscal statement to see if the chancellor has heeded warnings from trusts – and the health secretary – about the urgent need to tackle the financial and workforce challenges facing the health service.”