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A “‘move along, no story here’-type attitude” from ministers and NHS leaders is “triggering” for frontline NHS staff facing “overwhelming” pressure, a royal college president has said.

Katherine Henderson of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, has called on ministers and NHS England chiefs to be “humble and transparent” about the scale of the problems facing the NHS.

Her comments come after health secretary Sajid Javid previously claimed pressures on the NHS were not “unsustainable,” and NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard told MPs last month the NHS was “not overwhelmed” during the pandemic. Ms Pritchard did, however, acknowledge that the next six months “[look] exceptionally difficult” at her speech at NHS Providers conference this month.

At the time of her exclusive interview with HSJ, Dr Henderson also said Mr Javid had not yet met with RCEM to discuss concerns about the current situation. However, when HSJ asked the Department of Health and Social Care for comment, a meeting was arranged for next month.

RCEM is also making fresh calls for the publication of the proposed new metric on “patients spending more than 12 hours in A&E”, which is included in the bundle of new metrics for emergency care currently awaiting approval from government.

One for all

The government’s integration white paper, which could be seen before Christmas, might propose that one person be accountable for planning health and care services in each local area.

HSJ’s sources said that a key principle being explored was that each local area would share a person who was accountable for both NHS services (reporting to the NHS integrated care board, part of the integrated care system), and for overseeing social care (for which they would be responsible to their local council). 

One well-placed Whitehall source said the aim was to ensure integration of health and social care services was pushed forward in all areas — rather than only in a smaller number of pioneers — and to ensure there is a clear understanding for each local area of accountability for outcomes and delivery.

Sources also stressed the plans were subject to ongoing discussions and there would be further engagement on how they are implemented.

Writing exclusively for HSJ yesterday, NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor, said the prime minister has a “preference for accountability to rest in the hands of a single named person”. He added ICSs could be asked to nominate these individuals, but this should be done without undermining the “widely supported framework enacted by the Health and Care Bill”.