NHS Confederation responds to the health and social care secretary's speech at the Policy Exchange

Matthew Taylor responds to Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay's Policy Exchange speech.

1 September 2022

Responding to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care's speech at the Policy Exchange, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“NHS leaders will welcome the Health Secretary’s call for a reduction in the overall number of performance targets across the health service as well as his emphasis and encouragement that local leaders should be allowed to lead and shape the provision of care for the communities they know best.

“However, beyond the political rhetoric the government must ensure that it makes good on its promises and allows local leaders the freedom they need to make this a reality.

“Getting the correct mix both in terms of the numbers and the type of targets ultimately lies with the government as crucially it sets the priorities for the NHS in its annual mandate, something in recent years it has done nothing to redress.

“The Secretary of State has laid out his ambition to reduce both the overall numbers and the costs associated with NHS management. At best this a false economy and at worse will damage the NHS further.

“Evidence shows that the NHS is under-managed by international standards and employing fewer managers risks pulling clinicians into doing more of this work and away from the frontline seeing patients. 

“Our members are very clear on the importance of making continued progress on the elective care backlog, driving down ambulance handover times and delayed discharges of patients, however, NHS leaders know no one part of the system can be deprioritised over any other - cancer and mental health waiting times for example are as equally important.

“The harsh truth is the new government will inherit an NHS in deep crisis, with 138,000 staff vacancies, one in seven patients waiting to be discharged from hospital because of a lack of social care provision and severe underinvestment in NHS buildings and estates. What NHS leaders need to see urgently, is a clear and coherent plan that addresses this health service emergency.”