The chief nursing officer (CNO) for England and other NHS leaders will meet with the health and social care secretary and prime minister today to ‘drive forward’ planning to ease pressures on the NHS this winter.
The Downing Street meeting is set to see leaders from across the health service come together as part of a government roundtable on ways to mitigate winter pressures, improve performance and ease pressures on the NHS throughout the incoming winter months.
While discussing actions to improve care for patients and increase access to emergency care, the talks will also explore how to best meet the government’s commitments to cutting waiting lists and speed up long term recovery plans.
The talks will be attended by England’s CNO Dame Ruth May, NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard, the Royal College of General Practitioners and others. However, the Royal College of Nursing confirmed it has not been invited.
Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, said that winter was ‘always an extremely busy for the NHS’.
‘I’m working closely with NHS and social care leaders to provide additional hospital capacity, protect emergency care and harness the full potential of technology to deliver the best possible service and intensify our efforts to tackle waiting lists,’ he said.
Preparations for winter readiness have already begun in some areas as the rollout of flu and Covid -19 vaccinations commence in care homes this week.
However, as reported by Nursing in Practice, a last-minute timetable change has left vaccination hubs and GP practices ‘rallying’ around for staff.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the government had ‘started planning for winter earlier than before’ compared with previous years.
Mr Sunak continued: ‘Today we’re bringing together the best minds in healthcare who all have one shared aim – protecting patients and making sure they get the care they need this winter.’
Earlier this year the government announced a fund of £250m to increase winter capacity by 900 additional beds across the NHS.
Helen Whately, minister for health said that the talks were ‘bringing together leaders from across the NHS and social care to go even further’.
‘Whether in hospitals, care homes or people’s own homes, we want people to get the care they need, when they need it,’ she said.
‘That means cutting waiting lists, boosting emergency and urgent care, and joining up health and social care like never before.’
This roundtable event will follow on from the Prime Minister’s NHS Recovery Forum held in Downing Street on January 7 and the NHS Recovery Summit hosted by Steve Barclay in June, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Commenting on the meeting, RCN chief nurse Professor Nicola Ranger, said: ‘Nurses are always ready to look after patients, particularly in winter but we also need to face the reality that these pressures are all year round.
‘Solutions such as extra beds and virtual wards are of course needed but that all requires a skilled workforce – of which nursing is an essential part.’
She added: ‘We need to have a long-term conversation of how we protect the NHS whatever the time of year, so we do not need to reach this point every winter. Investing in the nursing workforce must be at the heart of this.’