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The health service in England must work in “new ways” to deliver the care patients need, according to its new chief executive.
In one of her first comments since taking over NHS England’s £130 billion budget, Amanda Pritchard has also reiterated the need to look after the wellbeing of NHS staff who she said had been forced to “cope with deeply distressing circumstances” during the pandemic.
She was announced as new chief executive of NHS England last week, taking over from Sir Simon Stevens who has now joined the House of Lords.
Ms Pritchard has spent her entire career in the NHS after joining the health service graduate management trainee scheme in 1997.
In a series of posts on Twitter she thanked staff for their efforts during the pandemic adding: “The dedication, skill and compassion of NHS staff 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.
“All this alongside the NHS vaccination programme which has been an unparalleled success, delivering more than 71 million doses and giving full protection to more than 32 million people.”
But she said the NHS was now entering a “new, but no less challenging phase” in responding to the Covid-19 crisis.
“This means we will need the same determination, team-work and innovation that have served us so well over the last 18 months. Amid these pressures, I know colleagues 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.”
She added: “The NHS must continue to innovate and work in new ways to deliver the care that patients need. 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.”
Throughout the pandemic hospitals have seen staffing levels stretched to dangerous ratios with staff redeployed to makeshift intensive care wards set up in operating theatres and other spaces.
Ms Pritchard said the pandemic had required staff 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 will continue to be central to our future strategy and recovery. I do not underestimate the scale of the task we face and while I am realistic, I am also optimistic.”