Our Week in 10 blog provides the latest intelligence and insight from our members across the health system. As the only membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks on behalf of all healthcare organisations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we are uniquely placed to ensure the views of healthcare leaders across the system influence the government and its national bodies.
This blog, from NHS Confederation chief executive Danny Mortimer, captures what we are hearing from our members and how we are using your insights to influence on your behalf.
We have been using our platform to promote a greater understanding and awareness of the severity of the challenge facing frontline services across the entire NHS. This includes being active in the media - I appeared on Sky News, BBC Breakfast and TalkRadio this week, and my colleague Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, was interviewed on BBC Radio Wales.
We have also launched the #CovidEmergency campaign, tackling sceptics head-on and standing in support of our members.
02 Adapting and surging
Members have been describing the increasing pressure they find themselves in, with huge spikes in demand and delays, staff being redeployed and particular challenges around delayed transfers of care and staff absence. We continue to ensure your views are candidly presented across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and welcome your continued feedback on how NHS England and NHS Improvement’s most recent operational actions translate into practice.
03 Vaccine reality
We have been hearing from you about the reality on the ground of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out as the scale and the rhetoric increases and we have continued to reflect these in our conversations with our partners and the media. This week saw the government’s vaccine plan, which I responded to publicly, as did Darren for the Welsh plan, making clear that among the optimism is the clear need for people to abide by the restrictions. Feedback we are hearing from members includes concerns over the reliability of supply, difficulties tracking staff who have been vaccinated, bureaucracy around who can vaccinate and coordination with mass vaccination centres. Our PCN Network board member Kat Dalby-Welsh has written for Nursing Times about her experience of delivering the vaccine.
04 Vaccine support
To support members during the programme, we have been pushing behind the scenes for more regular and guaranteed supply, while our PCN Network has been collating and summarising guidance and hosted a webinar on a new PCN vaccine planning tool. Our PCN Network director Ruth Rankine spoke to the Guardian about the need for consistent supply.
05 NHS Race and Health Observatory
The rise of infections means once again we risk seeing a totally unacceptable disproportionate impact on people from BME backgrounds and communities. The NHS Race and Health Observatory, which we host, will work to tackle ethnic and racial inequalities in healthcare for patients, communities and the NHS workforce, including looking at improving vaccine uptake. This week we are proud that the Observatory announced its board of world-leading experts on health inequalities.
06 Workforce pressures
As the crisis intensifies, we are hearing of more concerns for staff wellbeing as well as capacity constraints due to the increased demand; the need to support the vaccine programme; sickness and isolation. In yesterday’s NHS statistics, it was revealed that around 1 in 10 staff were off sick in November. There is also a concerning rise in people deciding to leave or retire. Our chair, Lord Victor Adebowale, gave evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry on workforce burnout this week, where he spoke about the impact of systemic racism in the NHS. His evidence follows that of NHS Employers’ director of development and employment Caroline Waterfield in October and our own written submission. NHS Employers, which is part of the NHS Confederation, has a number of tools and resources to support staff wellbeing and experience.
07 Mental Health Act reform
The government’s white paper on reform of the Mental Health Act, following Sir Simon Wesseley’s independent review in 2018, has been welcomed by our Mental Health Network this week. The network has been lobbying privately and publicly for some time for modernisation of the act, including with other organisations as part of the Mental Health Policy Group, and the team will now work with members to respond to the consultation and ensure that the practicalities of implementation are thought through.
08 Rising operational pressures
The monthly performance figures published yesterday, as I said in my media statement, bear out what members have been telling us about the enormous, and increasingly untenable, pressure the NHS is under and the relentless backlog building up as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Of course, with the rise in people needing treatment for COVID-19 in recent weeks, the unmet demand will have grown even further and we will continue to push hard for you to get the support you need. My colleague Layla McCay also issued a statement in response to the latest urgent and emergency care weekly data, which demonstrates the NHS’s incredible resilience and the extraordinary pressure it finds itself under.
09 Challenges across the UK
Our colleagues at the Welsh NHS Confederation and the Northern Ireland Confederation continue to support members and press for the support needed for services in their respective nations. As well as being active in the media on behalf of health boards this week, the Welsh NHS Confederation joined the Welsh Government, the Welsh LGA and police services in Wales to sign a joint ministerial statement urging people to stay at home to protect the NHS.
10 Social care
While the NHS faces intolerable pressures, we continue to be mindful of the extreme challenges faced by a social care sector made vulnerable by years of disinvestment and how both are working together to support discharges from hospital and to keep patients. We value our long-term relationships with the sector, working with colleagues from the LGA and ADASS, and through our ICS Network, not just through the crisis but beyond. Last week, NHS Clinical Commissioners, which is part of the NHS Confederation, published a paper on local decision making with the LGA, and the Health for Care coalition, which we lead, continues to make the case for long-term investment and a long-term plan for social care.