Early action to build NHS capacity ahead of winter welcome, but biggest risk remains the availability of staff

Danny Mortimer, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation, responds to NHS England's first steps for boosting capacity this winter.

12 August 2022

Responding to the package of measures set out by NHS England to boost NHS capacity ahead of winter, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation Danny Mortimer said:

“To have these plans from NHS England for winter set out in August highlights just how busy this winter could get, and the measures outlined to help plug the gaps will help our members to continue to plan and make decisions in the best interests of local services.

“There are a number of matters on which we look forward to hearing important detail, especially what additional funding will be made available to who and when.

"NHS England also rightly highlight that the biggest risk to the delivery of these plans is the availability of staff this winter. NHS leaders therefore need clarity on how they will be supported with staffing in the face of 105,000 vacancies. For example, in terms of the rules around the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) and flexibility regarding the agency cap to allow them to mitigate the impacts of the workforce crisis as much as possible.

“We are also seeking detail on how NHS England will empower all parts of the health and care system to work together effectively this winter, including how Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) will be able to fulfil their mutual assurance role relative to the scrutinising and reporting approaches taken via the NHS England regional tier.

“NHS leaders will be pleased to see the focus on helping to reduce the number of patients left in hospital who could otherwise leave but for a lack of available care packages in social care. Last week 9 in 10 NHS leaders told us that a lack of capacity in social care is leading to significant extra demand on emergency care services and in not enabling hospitals to move medically fit patients back into the community as soon as they would like. The benefits of these plans will be maximised by government urgently introducing support for the social care sector, including on pay.”