The health and social care secretary has said he will ‘knock down doors across Whitehall’ to get what the NHS needs – and promised action on improving the morale of the workforce, increasing the use of technology and a serious shift towards preventive medicine.
Speaking on video at the NHS Providers conference Matt Hancock told the leaders of trusts across the country that he had been ‘impressed’ by how staff had dealt with the ‘difficult circumstances’ faced in the NHS and promised he was working to improve things.
Outlining his priorities for the coming years and the long-term plan for the NHS, which is currently being drawn up, Mr Hancock said the NHS ‘held the pen’ and would be controlling the detail but he wanted to see action on workforce, technology and public health.
He said: ‘I… see opportunities. You will have heard me talking about the opportunities of technology – of changing the attitude we have to technology to be more agile and open and we are about to come out with a new set of standards on how technology should be adopted ensuring providers can build or buy the kit you need but also that it fits in with the other kit around the system.
On workforce issues Mr Hancock added: ‘I would love to see a change in the levels of morale in the workforce of the NHS which could be and should be one of the very best places to work in the world. Too much we rest on our laurels and use the fact that it’s a mission-driven job that people love to not give people the best management and leadership they deserve.
‘The result of that is high levels of bullying, difficulties in retention and there is a huge amount of attention that everyone in this room needs to pay to ensure we have the most highly motivated, highly valued workforce and what that takes is leadership.’
In a clear reference to former health secretary, now foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Mr Hancock said he would not be spending ‘every Monday diving into every trusts' finances’ and said he would approach the role as an executive chair, leading the whole health and social care system.
He said: ‘My whole philosophy of the task as secretary of state is to set out a view of where we want to get to and then take advice on how to get there. I’m open minded on the route but the goal has to be set.’
Mr Hancock told the room the long-term plan – which is likely to be published by early December, according to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens – is being discussed by four key figures – Department of Health and Social Care permanent secretary Chris Wormald, Mr Stevens and NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton. He said he had priority areas but the ‘NHS holds the pen’.
Mr Hancock also promised further action on agency spending and suggested that the days of competition between providers in the NHS could be numbered – suggesting commissioning is useful for keeping a grip on finances but that the health system is ‘not a market’.
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