While the NHS Celebrates Seventy Years the Government Can’t Take Its Eye Off The Ball

This week Healthwatch Essex joined others in celebrating the amazing organisation that is the National Health Service. Seventy years on it is, remarkably, still serving a burgeoning, aging population with ever more complex needs. There is no doubt that there are parts in which it is very noticeably creaking at the seams but, within it, there are many individual stories of incredible care in times of adversity.

There is lots to admire about the NHS and, increasingly, a fair amount to also be concerned about. Waiting times are increasing, IT systems often struggle to work in a co-ordinated way, certain life-saving medication is simply not available and recruiting adequate numbers of staff continues to be a significant problem. The changes that are needed to bring such a huge entity into the 21st Century in a way that meets the needs of the public is no small undertaking.

Across Essex, there is a lot of activity taking place to design transformation plans which integrate services in a way that has never been done before. These plans are ambitious and the public should see them, take notice and engage in the consultation about them. These are the services you and your family will rely upon – if not now, then at some point in the future. Don’t miss your opportunity to shape them.

The celebration of the NHS has quite-rightly dominated news coverage and, alongside Cabinet ministers resigning, Brexit, the World Cup and Donald Trump arriving in the UK, it has overshadowed something which causes me to lose sleep at night. Social care plans – which are crucial to the success of any health and care system – have been postponed. The Social Care Green Paper has quietly been pushed back to autumn at a time when reform in this area has never been more needed. Without appropriate social care, people who could be cared for in the community or be supported to care for themselves, will end up accessing already over-stretched health services. Social care reform is therefore vitally important if we are to be able to bring services in together in a way that makes sense for the public of Essex.

In June, the Prime Minister announced that the NHS will receive a £20bn uplift of funding. Just one week into his new job, I hope the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, can see just how important it is that social care plans keep pace with changes in the NHS – otherwise there is a real risk that this uplift in funding is a token gesture which offers no real possibility for improvement.


David Sollis

CEO Healthwatch Essex