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PDA responds to Rishi Sunak’s new year promises

The PDA is disappointed that the Prime Minister failed to take the opportunity to explain how he would address the very real and urgent NHS crisis in his keynote New Years’ speech.

Thu 5th January 2023 PDA Union

Although health is a devolved service, the Westminster government is directly responsible for NHS England which is by far the largest part of the system, and through HMRC the Treasury also controls most of the funding that enables the health systems across the entire UK. The actions of the Prime Minister therefore matter to all health professionals.

The PDA and other trade unions representing health workers want Mr Sunak and his ministers to engage with the workforce, through their representatives, to resolve the crisis in the NHS. Because this has not happened, industrial action has already been voted for by tens of thousands of health workers who are members of other health unions. In response to feedback from many pharmacists the PDA Union is among those currently considering holding further industrial action ballots, which would be a first for the pharmacists’ union.

Instead, Prime Minister Sunak spoke about how he would prefer to be judged, focussing on just five promises. Mr Sunak’s promises included just one mention of the NHS, in that he “promised” to cut NHS waiting lists and speed up care for patients, although he did not explain how this would be achieved in current circumstances.

Exacerbated by the pandemic, lengthy waiting lists to see specialists, receive treatment, or have a planned procedure do need to be reduced and of course those patients need their care, however, those lists are only part of the NHS crisis.

Everyday experiences faced by patients, and those professionals trying to care for them, include systemic issues around social care and the ability to effectively manage capacity; lack of safe staffing levels and overwork leading to burnout which, alongside real terms pay cuts feed the vicious cycle of insufficient staffing as the NHS has increasing difficulty in attracting candidates and retaining staff.

The lack of longer-term NHS workforce plans impact on the likelihood of being able to provide the future pipeline of professional expertise and of course, the proper funding of key parts of the wider infrastructure such as the community pharmacy contract, also need to be addressed.

Government ministers need to do better. They need to engage more effectively with those that know best about what it is like to work on the frontline of today’s NHS, the workforce. This will help to inform their policy decisions and face their responsibilities to deliver whatever is necessary to protect patient care and improve the NHS. Short term fixes, such as funding private healthcare to reduce existing waiting lists, will not be a solution to what is just the tip of the iceberg.

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The Pharmacists' Defence Association is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England; Company No 4746656.

The Pharmacists' Defence Association is an appointed representative in respect of insurance mediation activities only of
The Pharmacy Insurance Agency Limited which is registered in England and Wales under company number 2591975
and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Register No 307063)

The PDA Union is recognised by the Certification Officer as an independent trade union.

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