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Letter to the Times: Treating the root causes of a ‘dysfunctional’ NHS

Set out below is a copy of the letter published  in today’s Times (18 February 2019) from Professor Carrie MacEwen, Chair of the Academy Council

While we do not disagree with much of the diagnosis of the NHS’s troubles expressed by Lord Prior of Brampton, the chairman of NHS England (“Health service is chaotic and dysfunctional, says NHS chief”, Feb 15), it is important to look forward, not back.

The NHS long term plan gives us an ideal opportunity to do this, as it allows us finally to unpick the disastrous reforms of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. It promises an end to fragmentation of the service, pointless competition and excessive or inappropriate targets, which have conspired to make integrated care focused solely on clinical need far harder to deliver. For this reason, the medical royal colleges are working closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement to make the plan’s aspirations a reality.

However, we do not recognise Lord Prior’s implication that staff no longer go the extra mile for their patients. Every hour of every day, doctors, nurses and other NHS staff strive to do everything they can for patients and lead innovative service developments wherever that care is being delivered. They do this in spite of the dysfunctional environment he identifies and entirely because of their vocational approach to a job that is under-resourced and overstretched.

Yes, the NHS must change. But this time around, let the people who work in the system design and lead it.

Professor Carrie MacEwen
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges