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Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation

Government must be realistic about the pace of NHS recovery, the Health Foundation has warned.

Responding to The Government's 2021-22 mandate to NHS England and NHS Improvement, Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said: “Today’s mandate and planning guidance has set out short-term priorities for recovering NHS services, but the scale of the long-term challenges facing the system must not be underestimated. 

“The NHS went into the pandemic with rising waiting lists and a shortfall in funding and staff. COVID-19 added a huge backlog of unmet need, worsened inequalities in health and set back implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan. The priorities set out today recognise these challenges, but the government will need to be realistic about the pace at which progress can be made. 

“The pandemic took a heavy toll on NHS workers with many experiencing intense pressure and stress. Commitments to support staff are welcome but will need to be backed up by sufficient resource to ensure that they are given time to recover as pressure mounts to make progress on waiting times.  

“The government is emphasising the potential of technology to transform services to help tackle the backlog. But rushing to embed these without understanding more about their impact holds risks. Faster methods of robust evaluation will be needed with investment to do this. 

“Making real progress towards these priorities will take years not months. The limiting factors will be staff shortages, inadequate funding, and ongoing failure to reform social care. Addressing these will be the key test for the government over this parliament.”

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