'I value the work that you do' - Health Secretary Matt Hancock tells West Suffolk Hospital staff
Staff at West Suffolk Hospital had the chance to quiz new Health Secretary Matt Hancock after he delivered his first national policy speech.
The West Suffolk MP gave his maiden speech at the Bury St Edmunds hospital this morning - two weeks after being made Health and Social Care Secretary.
As well as announcing £487 million in funding to transform technology in the health and social care system, he pledged to champion NHS and social care staff and focus on prevention with a more holistic approach to treating patients.
Asked by the Bury Free Press about his message to staff at West Suffolk and if there are plans to help recruit more nurses, Mr Hancock said: "My message to the staff here is I care about what you do, I value the work that you do and on behalf of all my constituents in West Suffolk I'm grateful for how you attend to our needs at some of our most difficult moments.
"We've seen an increase in nurses but we need clearly to see a bigger increase and making sure that we have the workforce that is needed to guarantee the NHS's future is a critical part of my top priority."
During a question and answer session, Mr Hancock noted that West Suffolk Hospital is a 'digital exemplar' and he wanted to see some of its initiatives 'spread across the country'.
My commitment to the health service and the fundamental principles that underpin it is not just professional, it is deeply personal - Matt Hancock
Mr Hancock was asked by a member of staff about the support they would be given to meet the 'very challenging targets' set by his predecessor Jeremy Hunt.
He pointed to the Government's £20 billion a year funding increase, looking at resolving 'some of the workforce issues' and using technology 'to make the money go further'.
Asking about the workforce and the effect of Brexit, a junior doctor said technology would 'never replace the care that human touch can provide for patients'.
Mr Hancock said: "Technology will never replace people. What it can do is make it easier for you to provide care and that is the goal to have technology that helps people.
"Of course we need to hire more and people from the EU have played a huge part in that in recent years and I have no doubt they will continue to do so."
He said the Government had changed visa rules to ensure there was no cap for hiring.
"I'm determined to ensure the rules we have for both the EU and the rest of the world mean we can hire the best and brightest talent where we need it but I'm equally determined to make sure that people here in the UK get the opportunity to work in this amazing industry," he said.
Asked about the social care workforce, he said: "If you improve the attractiveness of the jobs in social care then that will improve social care. I think there's a lot of work to do on that side."
On his personal connections to the NHS, Mr Hancock said his grandmother worked at Pilgrim Hospital, in Boston, as a nurse and he has 'always valued the NHS'.
This hit home last year in one of his family's 'toughest moments' after his sister Emily Gilruth, a horse rider, suffered a severe head injury in a fall at the Badminton Horse Trials.
"It was touch and go and her life was saved by the intensive care unit at Bristol's Southmead Hospital where she stayed for a week - most of it in a coma. Thanks to their care she has now recovered and I want to say a deeply heartfelt thank you to the brilliant team at Southmead for all that they did.
"I love my sister and the NHS saved her life so when I say I love the NHS I mean it.
"My commitment to the health service and the fundamental principles that underpin it is not just professional, it is deeply personal."
- For a full report, see next Friday's Bury Free Press newspaper.