'I am impressed at colleagues’ resilience, but 2023 is unlikely to bring much respite': Chris Whitty’s New Year predictions

England’s chief medical officer praises health workers and civil servants, but warns winter will be tough
Being on the wards at Christmas is surprisingly enjoyable – but health workers are exhausted after three years of a public health and NHS crisis. Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

By Civil Service World

16 Dec 2022

 

What has been your highlight of the last 12 months? 

This year I have really enjoyed finally being able to get out of London again and meet a wide range of colleagues including local public health teams, hospital and general practice staff and learning about the remarkable work going on within communities to support those in greatest need. The work done to support health by local authorities is usually highly innovative and effective. 

What was your most difficult decision in 2022?  

How best to advise on the transition in our approach to Covid-19 in a way that moved as rapidly as possible towards a normal life for the great majority of society whilst minimising the risk of a major resurgence of the disease. 

"I am continually impressed at the resilience and professionalism of those working within DHSC, the NHS and wider government, but nobody thinks this will be easy"

What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how will you meet that challenge as an organisation?  

Winter 2022-23 will be very challenging for everyone across the health and social care system as we will be faced by a combination of compounding issues that will have an impact on health – flu, Covid, the NHS backlog, heating and cost-of-living pressures to name a few. The Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS have been doing a lot of preparatory work on this and will need to continue to provide excellent, evidence-based advice to ministers and support to our local partners who are dealing with these challenges on the ground. I am continually impressed at the resilience and professionalism of those working within DHSC, the NHS and wider government, but nobody thinks this will be easy. 

And personally, as a leader?  

Knowing that many of my colleagues in the system are exhausted after three years of a public health and NHS crisis, but that given these challenges, to serve our patients and public there is unlikely to be much of a respite in the coming year. 

It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season?  

If work means you can’t be with family, being on the wards as a doctor at Christmas is actually a surprisingly enjoyable experience. 

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