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Ministers have drafted in a former senior military commander to carry out a far-ranging overhaul of leadership in the health and social care sector.
The Government said General Sir Gordon Messenger, an ex-vice chief of the defence staff, would conduct the most far-reaching review the sector in England has seen in 40 years.
The move, on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, follows the announcement last month of a £12 billion-a-year cash injection to help the NHS catch up after the pandemic and overhaul social care.
Ministers said they wanted to ensure “every pound of investment is well spent” while reducing regional disparities in health outcomes by driving up innovation and more efficient ways of working.
The announcement reflects key themes of Boris Johnson’s “levelling up” agenda which is expected to feature heavily in the coming week.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am determined to make sure the NHS and social care deliver for the people of this country for years to come and leadership is so important to that mission.
“We are committed to providing the resources health and social care needs but that must come with change for the better.
“This review will shine a light on the outstanding leaders in health and social care to drive efficiency and innovation.
“It will help make sure individuals and families get the care and treatment they need, wherever they are in the country, as we build back better.”
The Prime Minister travels to Manchester buoyed by opinion polls showing the the Tories still ahead of Labour despite all the difficulties of the past year.
Mr Johnson stamped his authority on his Government with a reshuffle in which underperforming ministers were sacked or demoted while allies were moved to key posts.
Michael Gove was made Levelling Up Secretary in charge of a beefed-up communities and local ministry underlining its central importance to Mr Johnson’s vision for the future.
There are nevertheless some storm clouds hanging over the conference, not least the continuing fuel crisis with motorists in some part of the country still facing long queues.
The crisis, triggered by a shortage of tanker drivers, reflects wider warnings of shortages across the economy in the run up to Christmas due to a lack of skilled labour following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Businesses, from meat processors to retailers, have warned of empty shelves and delays to deliveries unless immigration rules are relaxed to allow in more overseas workers.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for the recall of Parliament, effectively breaking up the Tory conference, so MPs can rush through emergency legislation to ensure enough temporary visas are issued to foreign hauliers.
That will be brushed off by ministers but they will find it harder to dismiss concerns among Tory MPs, particularly in “red wall” seats the Conservatives took from Labour at the last election, about a looming cost of living crisis.
Fifteen million households are facing an increase of at least £139 in their energy bills as a result of the latest Ofgem price which came into force on Friday.
The new Household Support Fund will support millions of households and be distributed by who know their local areas best and can directly help those who need it most. https://t.co/kQHXsufXZE
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) September 30, 2021
It coincides with the phasing out of the £20-a-week uplift in Universal Credit (UC) payments, brought in at the start of the pandemic, as well as the ending of the furlough scheme which helped protect more than 11 million jobs.
Household budgets will take a further hit from next April when national insurance contributions rise by 1.25% to pay for the Government’s investment in the NHS and social care.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak sought to address some of the concerns with the announcement of a £500 million hardship fund providing small grants to vulnerable families for basics such as food, clothes and utilities.
However charities said it was a “fraction of what is needed” following the UC and it remains to be seen to what extent is assuages those MPs concerned about the rising financial pressures on families.