Supporting the health and wellbeing of NHS staff will remain “central” to the health service’s future and its recovery from Covid-19, the new chief executive of NHS England has pledged.
Amanda Pritchard became the first woman to hold the top role at NHS England when she replaced Sir Simon Stevens on Monday.
In a message to the NHS workforce on her first day in post, she thanked staff for their hard work and dedication during the last 18 months.
“The dedication, skill and compassion of NHS staff have been matched by innovation, agility and a ‘can do’ spirit that kept vital services running while our hospitals cared for more than 400,000 Covid patients,” said Ms Pritchard, who also highlighted the “unparalleled success” of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme.
Moving forward, Ms Pritchard said the health service had “now entered a new, but no less challenging phase” of its response to the pandemic.
At the same time, the NHS needed to continue to innovate in order to improve care, prevent illness and deliver on its long-term ambitions including tackling “major killers” like cancer and stroke, she noted.
Ms Pritchard closed her message by recognising the pressures and hardships NHS staff had faced in recent months.
“The pandemic has required many of you to make considerable personal sacrifice – working beyond your normal hours for long stretches, taking on new and difficult roles at real speed and having to cope with deeply distressing circumstances, including losing valued colleagues,” she said.
“Supporting the health and wellbeing of all our NHS staff will continue to be central to our future strategy and recovery,” she added.
In the early stages of the pandemic, Nursing Times launched the Covid-19: Are You OK? campaign to highlight the mental health needs of nursing staff before, during and after the coronavirus crisis.
Various organisations and employers have since signed a pledge to support the principles of the campaign and to show their commitment to protecting nurse wellbeing.
In her post on Twitter, Ms Pritchard added: “I do not underestimate the scale of the task we face and while I am realistic, I am also optimistic.
“Our NHS people continue to go above and beyond to respond to the needs of our patients and it is hugely appreciated – thank you for all you are doing.”
Since 2019, Ms Pritchard held the twin roles of chief operating officer of NHS England and chief executive of NHS Improvement.
Appointed deputy chief executive of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 2006 aged 29, Ms Pritchard then became the first female chief executive of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in 2016.
Sir Simon stood down from the chief executive role at NHS England last week after seven years in the position.