Time for reality after ‘fantasy politics’, argues health chief

PUBLISHED: 10:27 19 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:27 19 December 2019

Boris Johnson during the election campaign. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Boris Johnson during the election campaign. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

A senior health chief has called for realism after the ‘fantasy politics’ during the general election campaign.

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NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said that the health service needs bold and ambitious measures in the Queen's Speech to tackle the big challenges over social care and funding.

Writing in The Independent, Cordery said: "What has been striking - and welcome - has been the emphasis the Prime Minister continues to place on the NHS."

But she added that the best illustration of the scale of the task that lies ahead are current performance figures which, due to election restrictions, have not been published for a while.

"Their publication last Friday showed that performance in the hospital sector and across the urgent and emergency care pathway reached the lowest point in the 10 years since we have been monitoring the constitutional standards," Cordery wrote.

She added that the pressures are just as great in community and mental health services.

She quoted some of the most recent data, including that, in November, only 71.3% of patients at major A&E departments were seen within the four-hour waiting time target - the lowest on record.

"Bed occupancy, at 94.9%, was much higher than recommended levels," she said. "The number of ambulance arrivals over the week breached 100,000 for only the second time ever."

She said that, with a big majority, "the prime minister has the opportunity to be bold".

She called for:

- a sustainable solution to the current social care crisis with an adequately funded adult social care system that meets the needs of older and vulnerable people;

- a reversal of the cuts to public health spending and substantial investment across all local council prevention services;

- and a move away from the hospital-centric focus to invest in and sustain mental health services, boost primary care and enable community services to make inroads into cutting current and future demand.

She added: "Of course it's the politics of a programme for government from a new administration. But, critically for the NHS, it should be the politics of reality and the politics of delivery."

NHS Providers is the membership organisation for the NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services that treat patients and service users.

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