Change, and on a massive scale, is coming to health and social care in the UK

The legacy of the pandemic will be fundamental reviews and reforms of the way health and social care throughout the United Kingdom are delivered, structured, funded, and regulated.

Nightingale hospitals open in a matter of days, virus testing increased a hundredfold in a matter of weeks, frontline staffing increased by tens of thousands in a few days, drugs being tested within months, and vaccine research, both nationally and globally, getting funding and cooperation like never before – the United Kingdom’s response to the pandemic is truly something to behold.

Of course, there have been, and will continue to be, glitches along the way, but the NHS, the social care sector, the nation’s scientists and its political leaders have risen to a challenge that none of them could have really anticipated, and of which they had little previous experience upon which to build. Huge political and system changes have been delivered in record time.

From the early days when the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was giving lessons in hand-washing, to the nation applauding his return from a near-death experience, things have changed fundamentally, forever, in the way we think about and deliver public services. Indeed, the months and years to come will see a close consideration of what went well, what could have been done differently and better, and, as importantly, what changes we need to make to ensure that these vital services are fit for purpose in the future.

There will be much more national direction in purchasing, ensuring that the nation is never again unable to access the personal protective equipment that it needs, that it has access to testing facilities that can be rapidly scaled, that provision of services by social care and the NHS are much better co-ordinated, indeed are co-planned and co-delivered, and that resilience, at local level, becomes a fundamental principle of the risk assessments conducted by both local authorities and the local NHS. National direction; with local determination and implementation.

If you’re a supplier of medicines and equipment to the NHS, expect change; if businesses provide buildings and premises management, expect change; if agencies are supplying front line staff, from cleaners to consultants, they should expect change; and policy-makers at every level should expect change.

It is vital that all those involved in the health and social care economy, in its widest sense, engage with these inevitably coming reviews and reforms. We don’t yet know what changes are coming, what the future terrain will look like, but it’s unthinkable that it won’t be very different to what went before coronavirus.

The Whitehouse team are experts in providing public affairs advice and political analysis to a wide range of clients engaging with health and social care providers and policy makers, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union and beyond. For more information, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at