Starting his speech on the NHS, the former health secretary said he understands how hard health professionals are working on the frontline and how much they are struggling post-COVID-19.
Hunt noted “workforce shortages” as one of the biggest issues in health sector – the latest NHS figures indicate that staff vacancies are up to 132,000 now.
On staff shortages, Hunt opened with a satirical remark about his previous recommendations during his time as Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee and a book he wrote on the back of them.
He continued: “The NHS budget has been increased to record levels to deal with the pandemic and today I am asking it to join all public services in tackling waste and inefficiency. We want Scandinavian quality alongside Singaporean efficiency, both better outcomes for citizens and better value for taxpayers.
“That does not mean asking people on the frontline, often exhausted and burned out, to work harder, which would not be fair. But it does mean asking challenging questions about how to reform all our public services for the better.”
To achieve this, Hunt said he has asked former health secretary and Chair of the Norfolk and Waveney ICS, Patricia Hewitt, to help both he and the current health secretary Steve Barclay to identify how to make sure the ICBs operate “efficiently with appropriate autonomy and accountability.”
The Chancellor acknowledged that efficiency savings alone will not be enough to deliver the services needed, before announcing that he will increase the NHS budget – in each of the next two years – by an extra £3.3bn.
Hunt said that NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard has confirmed to him that this “should provide enough funding for the NHS to fulfil its key priorities” before claiming that this was evidence of the government being serious about its commitment to prioritising the NHS.
He concluded saying: “That is why today we commit to a record £8 billion package for our health and social care system – a government putting the NHS first.”
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