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RCEM response to King’s speech and the Government’s health agenda

7 November 2023

Today His Majesty King Charles III delivered an historic and inaugural King’s speech, in the State Opening of Parliament. 

In His Majesty’s speech, King Charles III announced the Government’s agenda for health care including: 

  • The Government will work with NHS England to deliver its plan to cut waiting lists and transform the NHS long-term workforce  
  • Implement and deliver the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan to ensure enough doctors and nurses are trained  
  • Implement a minimum service level for NHS staff to prevent strikes from “undermining” patient safety 
  • Record levels of investment were highlighted for the transformation of mental health services to ensure more people can access support 
  • Legislation to create a smoke-free generation by restricting the sale of tobacco to children currently aged 14 or under and restrict the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children 

Commenting on the Government’s agenda for health care, Dr Adrian Boyle, RCEM President said: 

“Cuts to bed numbers have contributed to the increase in dangerously high bed occupancy levels and dangerous delays to care. We recently revealed that in England last year, nearly 400,000 patients faced waits of 24 hours in A&Es.  

“While government pledged to deliver 5,000 additional beds in January, we are disappointed that we are some way off achieving this.  

“Without increasing capacity, it will be extremely difficult for the system to deliver the government’s agenda for health care. We must see faster and more urgent action to increase the number of beds in hospitals. 

“We welcomed NHS England’s long-term workforce plan, but we continue to wait to see the detail both around the recruitment of additional staff and the retention of existing staff.  

“The Emergency Medicine specialty has the highest risk of burnout among its staff. Burnout can lead to burn away, and we cannot afford to lose any of our existing staff. Retention is a critical aspect of the long-term workforce plan. 

“Mental health emergency care patients are twice as likely to wait more than 12 hours in A&Es. This is a serious crisis, these patients are regularly being let down by the system. We are disappointed that the government has not included the reform of the mental health bill on their agenda. Investment in mental health services is welcome but will do very little or nothing to address the root problems of the crisis. 

“For many years, emergency care has been functioning with too few staff, beds and resources to the severe detriment of staff, patients and their care. It is time the government adopted our priorities and that together we #ResuscitateEmergencyCare.” 

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