Health and Social Care Secretary sets out priorities for reform

  • 14th December 2023

Secretary of State aims to make health and social care system faster, simpler, and fairer for patients


The new Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, has thanked health, social care, and research staff for delivering on patients’ priorities, as she set out her commitment to make the health and social care system faster, simpler, and fairer for patients.

Earlier this month Atkins paid tribute to staff for their hard work in a week the Government delivered 50,000 additional nurses and 50 million more GP appointments and rolled out lifesaving HIV opt-out testing to 46 areas across England.

And her words came days after pharmacies across the country began offering new contraceptive services and additional blood pressure checks, and after a breakthrough in talks to end consultant strikes, which saw the British Medical Association consultants committee agree to put an offer on contract reform to its members.

Bowled over

Atkins said: “Since joining the department, I have been bowled over by the way health and social care staff just keep on delivering for patients and the important milestones we’ve reached this week demonstrate real progress.

“I have spent the past few weeks meeting doctors, nurses, GPs, pharmacists, and other health workers and have heard wonderful stories about how they have gone above and beyond to deliver outstanding care for patients and cut waiting lists.

“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.”

She added: “We face a difficult winter ahead and though our early winter planning is seeing some results, we know there is much more to do.

Getting ahead

“But having seen what our excellent staff can do I am confident that with the Government’s support, we can continue to deliver for patients over the coming months.”

In her speech she committed to making health and social care services:

  • Faster for patients by making it easier to get treatment locally, improving A&E performance, and cutting waiting lists
  • Simpler for patients, with joined-up, integrated care, and simpler for staff, by reducing bureaucracy and giving them the latest technology to free up their time to care for patients
  • Fairer by ensuring that children are protected from health harms, health outcomes are not determined by where you live, and that the Government supports older people to maintain their independence for longer

She added that she would continue to work with the NHS to manage the ongoing winter pressures.

Compared to the same time last year, ambulance handover delays have fallen by 28%, thousands more 111 calls are being answered within 60 seconds, and there were nearly 1,500 more hospital beds available.

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