Workforce is the ‘top priority’ for the NHS, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.
Speaking at the National Association of Primary Care Conference in Birmingham today, Mr Hancock restated that his top priorities for the NHS are prevention, workforce and technology – as first outlined when he was appointed to the role of health and social care secretary in July.
However, when challenged by a member of the audience on which one of these three areas is his ‘top’ priority, Mr Hancock responded that workforce comes before technology – despite the considerable attention his statements on the latter is often given in the media.
His answer comes just a day after he launched his vision to transform NHS technology.
Mr Hancock said: ‘I do see the massive benefits that technology has to improve the lives of patients. Now, I would say that of the three – prevention, technology and workforce – my top priority is workforce because that’s where the biggest pressures are.’
Commenting on the £20.5bn a year until 20203 that the Government allocated to the NHS in June, Mr Hancock said it’s important to ensure to the funding is spent in ‘the most effective way possible’.
However, he added that this can’t be done ‘without a bigger and better workforce’.
In his speech at the NAPC conference, Mr Hancock said that ‘we have set a goal of getting 5,000 more doctors into general practice and we must reach it’.
He outlined that progress has recently been made in this area, as the Government this year recruited ‘3,473 trainees against a target of 3,250’ – 10% up since last year.
‘Thirst for new technology’
Mr Hancock said that many are aware of his ‘thirst for new technology’ but explained that this ‘will never replace the need for human care, for the skilled, empathetic people we find in our health and care professions’.
In answer to presenter John Stapleton’ statement about the way in which services such as GP at Hand can contribute to the creation of a two-tier service health system that cherry-picks young and healthy patients, Mr Hancock said he understands the critique.
He said that GP at Hand works for him as a patient but added that: ‘We need to change the rules to make sure that the technology can benefit patients but doesn’t override others in the system with unintended consequences.’