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Tis the season: Could our new health secretary help reduce pressures this winter?

In what was her first speech as the new health and social care secretary, Victoria Atkins has laid bare her intentions to improve the unsettled sector.

On 3rd December Victoria Atkins, who was appointed as the new health secretary last month following a cabinet reshuffle, set out her plans to help ease pressures on NHS and social care staff this winter.

At the beginning of her speech, the secretary of state paid tribute to NHS, social care, and research staff for their hard work. Ms Atkins recalled that in a week the government delivered 50,000 additional nurses, 50 million more GP appointments and rolled out lifesaving HIV opt-out testing to 46 areas across England.

In addition, the speech came just days after pharmacies across England began offering new contraceptive services and blood pressure checks to help ease pressures on health staff.

However, the health and social care secretary has highlighted that whilst there are significant improvements happening within the sector – she also referenced the breakthrough in talks to end consultant strikes – staff are still facing extreme pressures.

‘Since joining the department, I have been bowled over by the way health and social care staff just keep on delivering for patients,’ Ms Atkins said. ‘The important milestones we’ve reached this week – reaching 50,000 additional nurses and 50 million more GP appointments – demonstrates real progress. I have spent the past few weeks meeting doctors, nurses, GPs, pharmacists, and other health workers and heard wonderful stories about how they have gone above and beyond to deliver outstanding care for patients and cut waiting lists.’

Ms Atkins added: ‘But I have also heard about their frustrations and where they feel they are not able to deliver the best possible care or where prevention or early intervention could have made a real difference. That is why I am committed to making health and social care services faster, simpler, and fairer.

‘We face a difficult winter ahead. And though our early winter planning is seeing some results we know there is much more to do.’

Within the speech, Ms Atkins made various promises which include:

  • Making the health and social care sector faster for patients by enabling treatment to be accessed locally, improving A&E performance and cutting waiting lists
  • Helping to increase integrated care and giving staff the latest technology to help free up their time to care for more patients
  • Making the sector fairer by ensuring children are protected from health harms, health outcomes are not determined by where people live, supporting older people to maintain their independence for longer and delivering a more productive NHS that is fairer for taxpayers

Amidst these pledges, Ms Atkins also referenced statistics which stated that ambulance handover delays have fallen by 28%, thousands more 111 calls are being answered within 60 seconds and there were almost 1,500 more hospital beds available to show that improvements are being made in health and social care.

Images: Department for Health and Social Care and voltamax

More on this topic:

£200m given to boost NHS resilience and care this winter

Emergency NHS measures announced ahead of winter

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