Royal College of Nursing has urged the newly appointed Health Secretary Victoria Atkins to focus on funding to help the NHS workforce. Ms Atkins (pictured), who replaced Steve Barclay in this week’s cabinet reshuffle, has inherited new record NHS waiting times, with 7.7 million people waiting for elective care. RCN General Secretary and Chief Executive Pat Cullen claimed this is due to a shortage in registered nurses, with 40,000 vacancies across NHS England currently. ‘The performance of the NHS is a serious concern to its own workforce, to government and to the public,’ said Ms Cullen.
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‘The RCN has been unambiguous in our call for a long-term and sustainable approach to securing the future of the nursing workforce,’ Ms Cullen added. ‘This can only happen with real investment and support for the current workforce.’
Formerly the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Ms Atkins spoke publicly for the first time since her appointment at the NHS Providers’ annual conference in Liverpool. Her speech covered the Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan for the winter and she expressed the need for a ‘fair and reasonable resolution’ to the ongoing pay dispute. In terms of investment and workforce, Atkins said, ‘We’ve got clear recovery plans in place. Financial certainty for the rest of the year. And the first-ever, fully funded, reform-focused, long-term workforce plan. Something that I know NHS Providers have been a strong champion for.’
But the RCN responded that ensuring funding for the NHS in next week’s Autumn Statement should be the Health Secretary’s ‘first priority’ and that ‘the workforce plan [Atkins] inherits is a big picture vision that needs to make happen.’