The new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has set out his three early priorities for the health and social care system in his first major speech since his recent appointment to the role. After paying tribute to the health service, Hancock went on to highlight the NHS workforce, technology and prevention as the main areas he wished to focus on as secretary of state.
For the NHS workforce, Hancock emphasised the importance of ensuring training is organised and funded so that sufficient numbers of correctly qualified people are available, and argued more progress needed to be made in improving diversity in NHS management.
In addition, Hancock announced a £475 million digitalisation fund to support his second priority, technology. Of this, £400 million will be given to hospitals to invest in technology that improves patient safety and allows more people to access health services at home, whereas the remaining £75 million will be allocated to NHS trusts in order to acquire digital systems and replace paper-based platforms. Improving the use of technology within the NHS will likely be pursued with particular enthusiasm by Hancock, who before his appointment as Health Secretary was a vocal advocate for the potential of new technologies to revolutionise public services.
Finally, Hancock set out his third priority, prevention, which he defined as improving public health in general, helping people to manage their own health needs closer to home, and delivering care in settings that suit patients and their needs. Highlighting the government’s preventative work on smoking and childhood obesity, Hancock also called for investment in primary care and community pharmacies to relieve pressure on hospitals, particularly those struggling to deal with high demand for A&E services.
These priorities foreshadow more detailed announcements due in the autumn, when the government will publish its ten year plan for spending the increase in funding announced for the NHS’ 70th anniversary, along with the green paper on social care.