A number of people have written to me recently about the NHS.

Having looked into the concerns they have raised, I have been informed that for this winter, the NHS has made more extensive preparations than ever before. There are 11,400 more doctors and 11,200 more hospital nurses in the NHS than in 2010, and to support the NHS, investment of £350 million was included in local Clinical Commissioning Group budgets in 2016/17 for resilience planning, and £50 million was made available for national initiatives. The NHS also assured the winter plans of every trust, launched the largest ever flu vaccination programme and bolstered support outside A&Es, with 12,000 additional GP sessions offered over the festive period.

As a consequence of this preparation and, most importantly, the hard work of frontline staff, I am assured that the system overall is coping and even performing slightly better than last year, in contrast to some recent newspaper headlines. Early in December, the NHS treated a record number of patients within four hours and is seeing 2,500 more patients within the four hour standard every single day compared with 2010.

However, I am also aware that there are a number of trusts where the situation has been extremely fragile, and NHS England is considering a series of further measures to be taken forward on a temporary basis at the discretion of local clinical leaders. Taken together, these actions will give the NHS additional flexibility to take further measures - if appropriate - at a local level.

I know that the Government remains committed to ensuring that the NHS offers the safest, highest-quality care available anywhere in the world, and I fully support this commitment.


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