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UK Policy Update May 2021

Welcome to this month’s policy update from HLA:THINK

Through these regular updates we will share with you some of the key developments in different areas of health and care policy, all through publicly available resources.

If you are interested in the work of HLA:Think and would like to get involved, feel free to contact us on

COVID-19 Recovery

As COVID-19 cases continue to fall in the UK, attention turns to recovery. A recent report by the World Health Organization showed that even pre-pandemic, healthcare spending was growing faster than the wider economy. The report echoes reports by The Kings Fund and Institute for Public Policy Research calling for greater public investment. There is growing concern about the impact of long COVID on the NHS. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows the condition affects over 1 million people, with around 700,000 experiencing some limitation to their day-to-day activities. Healthcare workers have the greatest prevalence of long COVID with over 120,000 workers affected. Long COVID clinics are being established around the country by NHS England and in a recent global health bulletin, we outlined similar efforts in other healthcare systems. Charities including Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and Stroke Association have warned that workforce shortages and the COVID-19 backlog threatens the NHS Long Term Plan. This warning comes amidst news from NHS England that hospital waiting lists are the longest since records began. The government’s latest Special Report in response to delivery of healthcare during the pandemic can be viewed here. Following the latest NHS figures, the Shadow Health Secretary has called for an NHS recovery plan to tackle waiting lists. We have collated responses to these latest NHS performance statistics from The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust, The Health Foundation, Royal College of Surgeons of England, British Medical Association and NHS Confederation. We have also included a report from the National Audit Office, looking at the Government’s response to the pandemic.


This month, a joint letter from the Health Foundation, Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund called for systemic change to support workforce planning, drawing on an earlier report on this topic. The letter includes suggested changes as part of the forthcoming healthcare legislation. The NHS Confederation has since called on the government to commit billions in additional funding to the NHS during this parliament to address workforce education and supply. It also criticised the NHS People Plan for failing to address several key issues. Positions on NHS funding from The King’s Fund and the Health Foundation can be found here. Also this month we include the Nursing & Midwifery Council annual Registration Data Report alongside the response from The Kings Fund. NHS Structure and Finance This month concerns were raised by MPs, GPs and campaigners regarding the takeover of many GP practices by a US-backed company. Operose Health now holds approximately 1% of all GP contracts in England, more than any other primary care provider. A formal parliamentary enquiry into the issuance of COVID-19 contracts is due to commence later this year. Meanwhile, the Secretary of State was criticised regarding his stake in one of the beneficiary companies and meetings with the, now defunct, Greensill Capital. A detailed summary of the events has been published by Health Policy Insight. Subsequently, the Secretary of State has been found to have technically breached the ministerial code. We include an explanation of the code and its role, produced by the Institute for Government.

Digital Health

This month saw the publication of NHS Test and Trace’s early adopter evaluation report, based on experiences in pilot areas before the programme’s national launch. Feedback on the app was generally positive, though some concerns were raised regarding privacy and the uptake of the contact tracing feature. Last month the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee reported on that NHS Test and Trace programme, raising concerns regarding its value and effectiveness. The Government response is still pending but you can see the response from the Local Government Association here. You can also find other reports from the Public Accounts Committee, along with responses, here. We end this bulletin with NHS England’s recently released guidance on remote triage for general practice. This has been met with concern from the Royal College of General Practitioners that such plans may exacerbate health inequalities.

Produced by Jamie Carruthers and Arrash Yassaee



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