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Press release

The King's Fund responds to the Prime Minister's speech at the Conservative Party Conference

Responding to today’s speech by Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party, Sally Warren, Director of Policy at The King’s Fund, said:

‘We warmly welcome the announcement that the government plans to implement a phased smoking ban, as recommended by an independent review led by Javed Khan last year. It suggests the government is willing to bite the bullet and take big decisions to prevent illness and improve health.

‘If implemented correctly, this policy will save lives and reduce inequalities. Smoking is still one of the single largest causes of preventable deaths, killing tens of thousands of people every year in England, and smoking is three to four times as common in some disadvantaged communities compared to the wealthiest.

‘This long-term clarity of ambition has sadly been lacking from other areas of government health policy. Across the Conservative party conference, we have heard there will be a review to understand why many public sector staff, including doctors and nurses, spend a significant proportion of their time dealing with administration. Yet we have also heard there will be effort to move more resource out of the back office into the front line. We know staff and patients alike are frustrated at poor administration systems that waste their time. Spending on administration is necessary to support health care systems, and to allow frontline staff to work effectively and efficiently, and to enable good communication with patients.

‘Yesterday’s announcement on opening more medical school places signals a first step to delivering on commitments set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. However, action on the other aspects of the workforce plan – particularly around retention and improving conditions for staff – will be critical to increasing overall NHS staffing numbers and it is not yet clear how the government will stem the flow of staff leaving the health service.

‘Any extra funding for improving innovative technologies in the NHS will be welcomed by those working in the health care system. However, productivity gains from technology and AI rely on a workforce with the right skillset and time to implement the innovations, as well as the right training and leadership. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s announcement yesterday of £30 million will not cut the mustard of what’s needed overall in terms of capital investment for buildings and equipment in the NHS – with the latest data showing that in 2021/22 the maintenance backlog had reached more than £10 billion.

‘Finally, what was glaringly lacking is the mention of social care. The social care system remains under intense pressure with care providers close to financial collapse, a workforce crisis, and too many people’s care needs going unmet. Unless these problems are addressed, the social care sector will continue to fail the people who rely on it.’

Notes to editors

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The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.

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