New Health Secretary needs to be clear on her priorities with NHS in such a crisis, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: UK
Published: Monday 13 November 2023

Responding to the appointment of Victoria Atkins as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA Council Chair, said:

“The new Health Secretary must make solving the NHS’s workforce crisis her top priority. Negotiations to find a fair way forward to restore doctors' lost pay and value their unique expertise must continue unabated. Long waiting lists and striking doctors have the same root causes – a catastrophic and chronic under-investment in our NHS.

“Time is almost up to get credible pay offers on the table; an opportunity to both end strikes and boost the recruitment and retention of doctors. This would not just get long-suffering patients the planned care they need, but give us some glimmer of hope, however slim, of getting through this winter more safely. It would be disastrous if the revolving door of health secretaries was responsible for the failure of talks and further strike action.

“Never before have our health and social care services been in such crisis. Sixteen months ago, when Ms Atkins’ predecessor was first appointed, we said he needed to prioritise investment to put health and social care services back on a sustainable footing, and have a credible plan to both recruit enough staff and most importantly retain the doctors we have. We also made plain that if the Government had no plan to address the long-term decline in doctors’ pay, it would set a collision course with the profession.

"Sadly, Steve Barclay chose to ignore much of this, leaving doctors forced to take industrial action, millions of patients on ever rising waiting lists and a workforce plan that many deem undeliverable. Coming from the Treasury, Ms Atkins will hopefully now understand that the cost of continued inaction is greater than the additional investment needed to bring these disputes to an end. The benefits to patients and the economy of getting patients healthier and into work where appropriate are obvious.

“The BMA calls on Ms Atkins to do what is required without delay and take action to rebuild a health service that is fit for purpose and for patients. Recognition of the centrality and value of general practice, academic and public health medicine must also be high up the agenda. This needs a long-term commitment to the future of our nation, and as we’ve said repeatedly, doctors are not the problem, but absolutely essential to any solution.”

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.