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Health Minister Victoria Atkins slams the ‘old boys’ network’ running the ailing NHS, saying it is crucial to ‘create a level playing field’

Victoria Atkins today slammed an ‘old boys network’ running the NHS for holding back the ailing health service.

The Health Secretary emphasized that the male-dominated hierarchies in place when the NHS was established in 1948 had remained “entrenched in the system over the ensuing decades.”

Instead she told me The Times Health Committee it was crucial to ‘level the playing field’ and ensure that the barriers holding back female staff were removed.

The Commission’s comprehensive report, published today, concludes that bullying, sexual assault and arrogance are still rife within the NHS ‘to the detriment of patients’.

Nearly a third of female surgeons have been sexually assaulted by a colleague in the past five years.

Health Minister Victoria Atkins (pictured) stressed that the male-dominated hierarchies in place when the NHS was established in 1948 had remained ‘entrenched in the system over the ensuing decades’. Instead, she told The Times Health Commission, it was crucial to “level the playing field” and ensure the barriers holding back female staff were removed.

Ms Atkins, who took over from Steve Barclay in November, said the reforms must ensure the culture is respectful and dignified.

She also called on the health service to ensure that NHS facilities provide free hot meals to staff as a sign of thanks.

The year-long commission found that hospital staff face a poor working environment, often meaning they struggle to even make a cup of tea or eat a hot meal during their shifts.

Mrs Atkins said: ‘Why don’t we provide hot meals?

“How can we thank members of the workforce, not just doctors, but nurses, anesthetists and others who work through the night or at the end of a long shift?

What is The Times Health Commission’s plan?

The Times Health Commission, set up in January last year, spoke to more than 600 witnesses, including senior doctors, hospital managers and politicians.

Today the Commission set out its 10-point plan to overhaul Britain’s health.

It recognized that some proposals could be implemented immediately, but others would take longer to come into effect.

The 10-point plan includes:

1. A digital healthcare account for everyone

2. High intensity weekend theater lists to tackle the backlog

3. A new GP contract

4. Student loans should be written off for doctors, nurses and midwives in the NHS

5. A no-blame compensation scheme

6. A national healthcare system, similar but different to the NHS

7. Mental health care for children guaranteed within four weeks

8. An expanded sugar tax, introduction of a salt tax and curbs on the marketing of unhealthy foods to children

9. A boost for research by giving senior doctors protected time

10. A Healthy Lives Committee to improve healthy life expectancy by five years

“How can we say to them, ‘thank you, you are really appreciated.’ How can we help people balance work and private life?’

She also called on hospitals to “try to find a better way to help doctors with working conditions,” especially when setting work schedules.

NHS workers have long highlighted the difficulties they face when trying to take annual leave.

Some have told how hospitals refused to let doctors take time off for their own weddings.

Others have revealed they were told to use holiday entitlements instead of carers’ leave to attend funerals of relatives.

Ms Atkins urged far-reaching reforms to ‘ensure the culture is respectful, dignified and caring, not just for patients but also for colleagues’.

The committee, led by a panel of health and social care experts, spoke to more than 600 witnesses, including senior doctors, hospital managers and politicians.

These include Sir John Bell of Oxford University, Sir Andrew Dilnott and Lord Rose.

One of 10 recommendations proposed by the Commission called for every NHS patient to have a digital health account, allowing the entire medical record to be stored in one place.

By accessing them via the NHS app, patients can contact doctors, order prescriptions and make appointments, all in one place.

Similar systems are already active in Spain, Singapore and Denmark.

Currently, up to one in ten British hospitals still operate entirely on paper.

There are also “between 40 and 60” different types of electronic health records, the committee said.

A YouGov poll for the committee found that 81 percent of the public supported the ‘patient passport’ recommendation, while only 10 percent were against.

Another proposal involved the launch of a national program of high-intensity weekend lists (HIT) drawn up once a month in 50 hospitals to identify backlogs.

It is hoped this will help ensure a week’s planned operations are completed in one day.

Other recommendations include writing off student loans for doctors, nurses and midwives who remain in the NHS to improve their retention, expanding the sugar tax and salt tax, and introducing an NHS-style social care service.

Some proposals can be implemented immediately, while others will take longer to come into effect, the committee acknowledged.

Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford and Commissioner of Times Health, said: ‘The NHS is entering a critical period. Demographic changes and other pressures on the NHS pose a serious threat to the maintenance of a comprehensive healthcare system in this country.

‘We also urgently need a shift towards disease prevention, a more personalized approach to healthcare and an NHS where patients are active participants in maintaining their own health and these things can only be achieved using data and technologies such as artificial intelligence.’