I wanted to write to you as the new NHS Chief Executive to thank you for everything you have done throughout the Covid pandemic, the most testing time in health service history, and to set out how together we can tackle the formidable challenges we face in the weeks, months and years ahead.
I’ve always been incredibly proud to work for the NHS since I joined as a graduate trainee, and I can honestly say that I have never been prouder of what we’ve achieved as a service than over the past 18 months.
The dedication, skill and compassion of NHS staff – across primary, community, mental health, ambulance and acute care – have been matched by innovation, agility and a ‘can do’ spirit that kept vital services running while our hospitals cared for more than 400,000 Covid patients.
The NHS has shown its ability to adapt to the most challenging of circumstances, developing new services at pace and scale, and delivering the commitments we set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to use cutting-edge treatment and technology to save and improve patients’ lives.
And, after making history by administering the first Covid jab outside of a clinical trial, the NHS vaccination programme has been an unparalleled success, delivering more than 71 million doses and giving full protection to more than 32 million people.
The NHS response to the pandemic has now entered a new, but no less challenging, phase. This means we will need the same determination, team-work and innovation that have served us so well over the last 18 months.
Thank you for everything you are doing to care for patients while following the Covid protocols required to keep them safe. And for your dedication to tackling the Covid backlogs that have inevitably built up while saving those who were acutely ill with the virus or other conditions.
And amid these pressures I know you share my determination to deliver the long term improvements in treatment and care which, coupled with a renewed focus on prevention, will enable many more people to live longer and more fulfilling lives.
All of this means the NHS must continue to innovate and work in new ways to deliver the care that patients need and deserve. From the NHS Covid vaccination programme to ‘virtual wards’, the pandemic has shown the power of digital technology and data to transform care and tackle health inequalities.
We must harness this power to ensure everyone can access the care they need, prevent illness and provide better treatment, and deliver on our long term ambitions to tackle major killers like cancer and stroke, saving many more lives.
As we realise the potential of partnerships at a local level, and join up care across the NHS and beyond, smart digital solutions and joined up person-level data will help us meet population need and improve outcomes and experience for patients, while reducing bureaucracy and duplication.
I know the last 18 months have been hard on all of us. The pandemic has required many of you to make considerable personal sacrifice – working beyond your normal hours for long stretches, taking on new and difficult roles at real speed and having to cope with deeply distressing circumstances, including losing valued colleagues. Supporting the health and wellbeing of all our NHS staff, with compassionate and inclusive leadership, will continue to be central to our future strategy and recovery.
I do not underestimate the scale of the task we face nor the pressures that NHS staff in many areas are feeling.
But while I am realistic, I am also optimistic.
I know that given all we have already achieved in this pandemic, and the talent, energy, compassion and determination of the NHS we can face the future with confidence.
Thank you again for everything you are doing. You continue to go above and beyond to respond to the needs of our patients and it is hugely appreciated.
With best wishes