The RCP has responded to the secretary of state for health and social care Dr Thérèse Coffey's speech at the Conservative Party Conference.
Dr Sarah Clarke, president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), said:
“While the secretary of state was brief, she made an important point: we know prevention is better than cure. That’s why we and over 155 members of the Inequalities in Health Alliance wrote last week to urge her to publish the Health Disparities White Paper, and why we are collectively calling for a cross government strategy to address health inequalities.
“As the secretary of state noted, the health of the nation affects the health of the economy. Figures from the ONS show that since early 2020 almost 400,000 people exited the jobs market due to long-term health problems. To prevent ill health in the first place, action is needed to tackle the factors that shape and create inequalities in health, such as poor housing, lack of educational opportunity, communities and place, employment, racism and discrimination, transport and air pollution.
“Turning to her comments published in the Telegraph prior to the speech, the RCP agrees that we need to make sure we have the right number of people in the right roles working in the NHS. That is why we led a coalition of over 100 organisations calling for workforce planning to be legally required by the Health and Care Act. The government refused but we're even more convinced now that this was the right call and hope the NHS workforce strategy will be published by the end of the year as planned.
“But while the RCP firmly believes the NHS must be open and welcoming to international colleagues, we should be aiming to train more doctors in the UK, not least so that we are not taking people from countries that have substantially lower numbers of healthcare workers. As Health Education England said in Facing the Facts, Shaping the Future in 2018, ‘It cannot be right for the NHS to draw staff from other countries in large numbers just because we have failed to plan and invest.’”