Barclay speech puts focus on efficiency

Health and social care secretary Steve Barclay delivered a speech at the Spectator Health Summit in London on Monday.

Barclay began by highlighting the £6.6 billion of extra funding for the NHS over the next two years, as well as increased funding for social care that was announced in the Autumn statement.

Barclay listed priorities including pandemic backlogs, operations, access to GPs, urgent and emergency care, ambulance handovers and delayed discharge.

Barclay put the focus on efficiency: "Now, efficiency within the NHS is often seen through the lens of finance.

"So, the case I want to make today is that efficiency is not just a finance priority – it’s a patient priority too.

"Because efficiency is an indicator of wider system health."

He continued: "An efficient system addresses bottlenecks that delay patient care by designing new journeys for patients that avoid those delays.

"Because quicker – and therefore earlier treatment – will lead to better patient outcomes whether that is from earlier cancer diagnoses, with the announcement a couple of weeks ago on direct access for GPs, or on antibiotics – getting the right antibiotic first time, rather than the third or fourth time. Obviously bringing significant patient benefits, but it is also efficient in terms of cost.

"So an efficient system will get better treatment to the patient and improvement patient outcomes, but in doing so, it will also unlock value for money."

The health secretary called for a move to more personalised care, with previous examples including at-home Covid tests and the Women's Health Strategy.

He also urged senior clinicians to lead change and shared his pleasure that Professor Sir Tim Briggs has taken up the role of clinical lead for the Elective Recovery Programme.

Barclay called for innovation and technology to tackle challenges such as cancer and GP pressures.

He concluded his speech by saying: "Covid is still with us. And so in particular are its consequences, in the form of pandemic backlogs.

"So we must continue to embrace the pace and risk appetite of the pandemic when it comes to innovating at pace and at scale, and better assessing how risk is scored when we do so.

"That is what I believe the British people rightly expect us to do, and if we are to confront the scale of challenges facing the NHS, that is what we need to do."