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Medicine 2022: Secretary of state Sajid Javid in interview with RCP president

Secretary of state for health and social care Sajid Javid MP acknowledged that the NHS needs ‘more people at all levels’ in an interview with RCP president Dr Andrew Goddard on the first day Medicine 2022, the RCP’s annual conference.

In the interview, aired on Thursday morning, the RCP president challenged the secretary of state on the sustainability of the clinical workforce, which is threatened by high numbers of doctors planning to retire in the coming years, as well as current high levels of vacancies.

Mr Javid expanded on the speech he made on healthcare reform earlier this month at the RCP: ‘I’ve asked the NHS to come up with a long-term strategy for what the workforce needs over the next 15 years.’ While acknowledging that key decisions must be made at the ministerial level, he explained that planning needs to be informed ‘by the best data and information … and I don’t think I’ve got that at the moment, which is why I need this plan’.

The secretary of state agreed that addressing health inequalities was ‘hugely important’ and that success would require a cross-governmental approach.

Dr Goddard pressed the secretary of state on the timeframe for the new strategy, given the urgency of the issue, which is further exacerbated by geographical disparities in workforce numbers. Mr Javid answered: ‘I want this done properly, so I’ve asked the NHS to come back to me and tell me how long it will take to do this’ and went on to estimate that such a strategy should be ready ‘within a year of setting the task, so another 10 months to go.’

The conversation between Dr Goddard and Mr Javid also covered health inequalities. Both agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic had offered an insight into existing inequalities across society, as Mr Javid noted: ‘COVID didn’t strike randomly’ and often had the biggest impact on those ‘who had other poor health outcomes.’

The secretary of state agreed that addressing health inequalities was ‘hugely important’ and that success would require a cross-governmental approach. Citing previous experience in other ministerial positions, he continued: ‘When I was local government secretary, I wanted to properly tackle rough sleeping. Local government has a role, but it’s not just economics. [We needed to address] mental health problems, family breakup problems etc, so it involved a number of departments coming together, including this one [Department for Health and Social Care] and we managed to get numbers down significantly.’

The interview also covered the regulation of physician associates, and the government and healthcare sector’s response to the war in Ukraine.

You can watch the full interview by signing up to Medicine 2022.