The NHS England ‘Delivery Plan’ to tackle the growing backlog of waiting list treatment, announced on February 8, is not a plan at all. It lacks sufficient investment and – most important of all – a workforce plan, without which none of the promised improvements will happen.
Indeed as the House of Lords has worked through the committee stage of the Health and Care Bill one topic in which ministers have refused to give any ground at all, for fear of antagonising the Treasury, is on the need for a workforce strategy, as proposed by Jeremy Hunt in the Commons, backed by over 90 professional and other organisations, and by former NHS England boss Simon Stevens and other peers in the Lords.
The new 50-page Delivery Plan also admits from the outset that it doesn’t cover mental health, GP services or urgent and emergency care – all of which are facing dire and worsening problems after a decade of underfunding compounded by the 2-year pandemic.
And while it talks in abstract terms about expanding the NHS workforce and “physical capacity” it does not even discuss ways of reopening the 5,000 or so NHS beds which closed in March 2020 as part of the pandemic preparation – and are still not being used. They cannot be reopened because the NHS lacks the capital investment required to reorganise space within hospitals and refurbish buildings to allow social distancing and infection control.
Full story in The Lowdown, 18 February 2022