Weekly political news round up – 26th January 2018

This week, there has been wide public debate on NHS funding, following a call from the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for the NHS to receive an additional £100 million a week. It was reported that Johnson would make the demand during a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, following his well-publicised campaign for the NHS to receive an extra £350 million a week during the Brexit referendum campaign, but his demands were dismissed by the Prime Minister. While his call was rejected in the Cabinet meeting, the coverage is thought to have sparked wider discussion of NHS funding within the Cabinet.

RCPCH publishes ‘State of Child Health – One Year On’

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published scorecards evaluating the approach to child health in England, Scotland and Wales to mark a year since the publication of its State of Child Health report. The scorecards highlighted that England has not made sufficient progress in child health for a number of reasons, including that it has not made plans for an overarching child health strategy, taken action on junk food advertising or increased investment in child health research. Scotland was praised for its work to pass the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act and plans to increase the number of health visitors by 500 by the end of 2018, while Wales was commended for passing the Public Health (Wales) Act and its provisions on smoking in public places.

Commenting on the scorecards, the RCPCH’s Officer for Health Promotion, Professor Russell Viner, said “Child health isn’t being given the political attention it deserves in Westminster, which is disappointing given the real commitments from the Scottish and Welsh Governments. […] Getting it right in childhood means setting up future generation for a lifetime of better health. Investing in children is an investment in the entire population.” The RCPCH’s President Professor Neena Modi also called for a “reversal of the current destructive cuts to preventive services.”

King’s Fund calls for ‘forward view’ for NHS community services

The health think tank The King’s Fund has published a report, ‘Reimagining community services’, calling for NHS community services to be reinvigorated to deliver on the NHS’s ambitions over the coming years. The report contains a list of services falling under a ‘narrow definition’ of NHS community health services – meaning that they are provided by organisations with responsibilities in this area, such as community trusts, private providers and local authorities – including child health services, community paediatric clinics, and community specialist nurses for issues including continence, health visiting and school nursing. Specialist continence nurses are referenced at several points in the report as examples of the type of community support people might come into contact with.

The report recommends that “National bodies should publish a plan for the future of services in the community, akin to the General practice forward view, setting out a compelling vision for the future and the resources that will be provided to make a reality of this vision.” The authors emphasise that community services cannot be boosted by redistributing capacity and resources from acute care when hospitals are under such intense pressure, and so the community sector should benefit from additional NHS funding. This should be accompanied by “an honest assessment of what funding and staffing are needed as budgets are likely to be constrained for the foreseeable future.”

Health Committee publishes report on nursing workforce

The Health Select Committee has published its final report on the nursing workforce, which highlighted the issues contributing to the shortfall in the nursing workforce including “workload pressures, poor access to continuing professional development, a sense of not feeling valued, ongoing pay restraint, the impact of Brexit and the introduction of language testing.” The report calls for an expansion to the nursing workforce to relieve “relentless pressures which, at their most extreme, meant that nurses felt their professional regulations were at risk because they were struggling to cope with demand.”

The Committee also reiterated the warning from elsewhere in the sector that the Government’s promise to fund pay increases for NHS staff with links to productivity may not be realistic, and that the Government should “recognise the existing pressures on, and productivity gains by, the nursing workforce.” The Chief Executive of the RCN, Janet Davies, said “It’s clear the Health Committee has listened to the views of frontline nursing staff and made practical suggestions on what must be done to value the profession to improve retention and raise morale. The Government must now also listen and respond to these recommendations.”

DHSC publishes single departmental plan

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has updated its single departmental plan to reflect new ministerial responsibilities following the reshuffle. The plan was originally published in December and sets out the department’s objectives for the coming year. These are broken down into five objectives:

  • Keep people healthy and support sustainable public services
  • Transform out of hospital care to keep people living healthier for longer in their community
  • Support the NHS to deliver high quality, safe and sustainable hospital care and secure the right workforce
  • Research and innovate to maximise health and economic productivity
  • Ensure accountability of the health and care system to Parliament and the taxpayer, and create an efficient and effective Department of Health

 The Department intends to strengthen the public health system by working with Public Health England to “refresh assurance, funding and transparency for local authority public health responsibilities”; and to develop community pharmacy to “provide a more efficient service while maintaining patient access and improving quality.” It will also implement previously announced reforms to the nursing workforce, including “a 25% increase in training posts for nurses and a further 5,000 nursing associates to be trained through the apprenticeship route in 2018 and 7,500 in 2019.”