College comments on “fixing the NHS” report

A new report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC), Fixing the NHS, highlights some of the key challenges facing healthcare delivery in the UK – and offers practical solutions for reform.

The AOMRC, of which the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (the “College”) is a member, is concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the healthcare sector, but suggests that the pandemic has merely exacerbated pre-existing problems. This is an argument that the College has consistently held and supported.

The AOMRC believes that the following can be considered as part of healthcare reform, putting individuals and the wider population at the heart of what the NHS does:

  • Expanding workforce numbers
  • Improving patient access to care across all settings
  • Reforming social care
  • Embracing new ways of working
  • Grasping the digital agenda
  • Valuing our staff
  • Modernising the NHS estate
  • Revitalising primary care
  • Greater focus on prevention and tackling health disparities
  • Making better use of resources and ensuring there is adequate investment

The College is broadly supportive of these solutions, and will continue to lobby government in different parts of the UK to consider introducing them.

However, College leadership believes that a key issue is how we operationalise and implement solutions to address the challenges identified. We recognise that the NHS long Term Plan is attempting to address this, and while discussion is important, the key is to implement action now to address the urgent challenges our NHS is facing. 

Commenting, Professor Andrew Elder, President of the College said:

Everyone who works in the NHS can see its problems - and too many people experiencing its care can see them too. Workforce numbers are too low, people are stuck in hospital for too long, and the gold standard of patient care is not met often enough.

Our College and our profession want to make that better, but the NHS belongs to us all and it is for us all to fix it. That means making the health of the population the first agenda item in every political conversation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to invest wisely in healthcare, right across the UK. While the College was pleased to see our NHS develop new ways of working during the pandemic, we believe that this must be maintained to have a lasting impact.

While new ways of working are important, they mean very little without adequate resources and safe staffing levels. We support the NHS workforce strategy, but it will take time for this to be implemented. Therefore, we must also look to shorter-term solutions, such as overseas recruitment and incentives for senior doctors to continue working in our NHS.

We must also remember that medical students and postgraduate doctors in training need structured education, supported training and mentorship – and this cannot happen without senior, experienced doctors who are facing more clinical demand than ever, particularly as many treatments were delayed during the pandemic.

Professor Sunil Bhandari, VP for England and Wales, added:

Essential to the future of the NHS workforce is valuing our staff, and ensuring that there is time for medical staff to engage in life-long learning and teaching. We must also ensure that team-work and effective communication with patients is front and centre of how we operate, with the ultimate aim of ensuring the delivery of high quality, evidence-based treatments for all.