Nuffield Trust: Pushing power out from the centre key to cutting red tape and supporting NHS people plan

Helen Buckingham responds to the vision for the future of healthcare speech from Matt Hancock and the publication of the NHS People Plan.

Press release

Published: 30/07/2020

Responding to the vision for the future of healthcare speech from Matt Hancock and the publication of the NHS People Plan 2020/21, Nuffield Trust Director of Strategy Helen Buckingham said:

“In his speech today, the secretary of state made clear his intent to tackle the admin burden on NHS staff and cut red tape holding back NHS transformation.

“But we need to remember that much of this admin burden comes from the top, and new targets in the NHS People Plan may add to it. If he is serious about pushing power out from the centre, Matt Hancock must also ensure that the NHS reform act expected later this year does not further increase the grip of the DHSC, as some reports suggest it may. Collecting information from the frontline once, rather than multiple times, would be a great relief for local staff and a genuinely positive corona-linked reform. We need a deadline for this to happen soon.

“It is disappointing that the long time coming and much delayed NHS People Plan published today appears to be rather lacking in detail and without the financial teeth to back it up. The NHS itself has recognised that workforce is its number one issue. The exceptionally hard work of current and former staff throughout the pandemic has brought this into even sharper focus. But even with this blueprint to modernise the NHS as an employer and provide the wellbeing support staff deserve, there will need to be a lot of work to turn this major problem around.

“It is right that a great deal of effort is being spent on improving the working conditions within the NHS. Pay is a missing piece of this plan. Our analysis today shows that NHS staff as a whole have seen a real-term pay decrease since 2010. This plan also excludes the social care sector which also struggles with low rates of pay, making the job of bringing people in even more difficult. In this context it is critical that real action is taken to ensure that NHS and social care staff feel truly valued.

“The upcoming spending review can be an opportunity for the government to address these pay inequalities and meet its commitments to boost the domestic workforce in health and care.”

Notes to editors

  • This week, the Nuffield Trust published a Chart of the week which looks at whether the pay of NHS staff over the past 10 years has kept up with inflation and with wages in the private sector.
  • The NHS People Plan 2020/21 published today can be found here.
  • The Nuffield Trust is an independent health think tank. We aim to improve the quality of health care in the UK by providing evidence-based research and policy analysis and informing and generating debate.
  • For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Simon Keen on 07780 475571 or