New Health Secretary Victoria Atkins has revealed she is an ‘optimist’ who will adopt a different approach to negotiating with doctors in a bid to end strikes.
She told health bosses at the NHS Providers’ annual conference in Liverpool that she will ‘get around the table’ to find a ‘fair and reasonable resolution’.
In a pre-recorded video message, Ms Atkins said she plans to work with staff to overcome the challenges in the health service and ‘take the long-term decisions that will build a brighter future for our NHS’.
She added: ‘This is the approach I will take to industrial action.
‘I’m acutely aware of how the strikes have disrupted patient care and I’m committed to getting around the table, because I want to see a fair and reasonable resolution.’
She told health bosses at the NHS Providers’ annual conference in Liverpool that she will ‘get around the table’ to find a ‘fair and reasonable resolution’. In a pre-recorded video message, Ms Atkins said she plans to work with staff to overcome the challenges in the health service and ‘take the long-term decisions that will build a brighter future for our NHS’
Official figures also show waiting lists for routine NHS procedures also shot up to a a new record high, with around 6.5million patients in England waiting for 7.77million appointments and procedures in England. But the Treasury has refused to fully bailout the health service, forcing managers to scale back plans to clear the backlog
NHS strikes have led to the cancellation of over 1million appointments and operations and cost around £1billion.
The Treasury has refused to fully bailout the health service, forcing managers to scale back plans to clear the backlog of 7.8million.
At the start of her message, Ms Atkins said she wanted to ‘start by thanking you all for all the fantastic and vital work that you do’.
She added: ‘I’m sorry I can’t be with you in Liverpool, but I’m really looking forward to getting to know you and working with you in the weeks and months ahead.
‘It’s a genuine pleasure and a privilege to be your Health and Social Care Secretary.
‘My belief in our national health service and its founding principles is one of the reasons I came into politics.
‘Now I know you might hear this a lot, but for me, it is truly personal.
Like families up and down the country, I owe our NHS a lot.
‘It has cared for me and my family and bought my wonderful son into the world.
‘I want to make sure that it’s here in fighting fit form for our children and our grandchildren, just as it’s been here for us.’
Ms Atkins said there is ‘a lot of work to do’ as Government reforms ‘bed in’ and the NHS faces a tough winter.
‘We know winter will be challenging, but this year we have all started to prepare earlier than ever before,’ she said.
‘Using our recovery plan, we can continue to expand capacity, build resilience and deliver better care.
This has to be our number one priority.
‘I recognise that this requires working collaboratively with other organisations and sectors – for example working with the police to support people suffering from mental health crises.’
She told staff they have ‘overcome a once-in-a-generation pandemic’ and are working to tackling waiting lists.
She finished off by saying her thanks to staff is sincere, adding: ‘Let’s roll up our sleeves and get on with the job.
Now’s the time to deliver for patients and deliver for our NHS.’
Discussions between doctors’ leaders and officials at the Department of Health and Social Care are ongoing on the best way to resolve strikes.
NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard told the Providers’ conference about the first phone call she had with Ms Atkins after she became Health Secretary.
Asked what the first question she asked Ms Atkins was, Ms Pritchard said: ‘I wonder if you’d be interested to know the first question she asked me?
Official data released last month shows more than 100,000 hospital appointments in England were rescheduled due to walkouts by British Medical Association (BMA) consultants and junior doctors in October. Radiographers also joined the picket lines
‘The first question she asked me was ‘What can I do to help you?’
‘We then had a very wide-ranging discussion, but it will be unsurprising to know that one of the first things we talked about was industrial action.
‘So we’ve been really clear, we have consistently… talked about the impacts industrial action has had on patients, talked about the impact that it’s had on our own teams and colleagues, talked about the impact it’s had on finances, but also called on all sides to work together to find a resolution.’
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts, told the conference resolving the strikes was ‘absolutely critical’.
She added: ‘We really need to see that industrial action behind us and I was very heartened to hear Victoria’s approach there in the film, which really focused on coming to the table and negotiating, having a conversation and listening.
‘That feels so important and I think there’s even more reason for hope than there has been over the last few weeks where we know that talks have been underway.’