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Millions of staff will be able to give the government their views, as the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, launches a new digital platform. ‘TalkHealthandCare’ will give 3.1 million health and care staff in England a voice in the day-to-day creation of policy, enabling them to post ideas, questions and challenges for government.


The platform will be available on computers, phones and tablets. It will continually update to reflect the views and ideas of staff. The platform will also include events, forums and webinars for staff across the country.


TalkHealthandCare has been launched following feedback from staff that too often they do not feel valued at work. It will initially seek views on five core challenges about empowerment, safety, development, respect and getting the basics right. In particular, the Secretary of State has expressed concern about the high number of reports of bullying and harassment. He has reiterated his wish to ensure these issues are not accepted and ‘put in the too difficult pile’. 


To help protect paramedics from violence and increase prosecutions, the Department of Health and Social Care announced earlier this year that, as part of a pilot, body cameras would be issued to ambulances and paramedics. NHS employers are also introducing fast-access systems to speed up access to free mental health support and physiotherapy for their staff.


While NHS England and NHS Improvement are developing more ways to prevent and reduce violence against health and care staff, TalkHealthandCare will seek views on what needs to be done to make staff feel safe and secure at work.


Announcing this initiative in a speech to staff at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, Matt Hancock said: “Government has never engaged with health and care staff in this way before. This is about giving you a voice in the day-to-day creation of policy in government, and giving you somewhere to go with your ideas and questions, somewhere for you to challenge us and, equally, for us to ask something of you. Because, if the culture in health and care is really going to change, it will take all of us, working together, to make it happen.”


The department is also launching a new Workforce Panel of staff who the Secretary of State will meet with as a sounding board on issues affecting health and care staff across the country.


UNISON, which represents the majority of health workers in the UK, has welcomed this initiative but warns that the government needs to deliver on expectations.


“Having the Health Secretary taking action and opening a direct line of communication with employees and unions is a good sign. But, after eight years of being ignored and sidelined, he needs to convince staff that he is able to change their day-to-day lives for the better. A good first step would be to make sure this initiative on violence makes our hospitals, clinics and health centres safer places to work,” says Sara Gorton, UNISON Head of Health.


“An intolerably high number of staff are attacked every day, with this figure increasing every year. It’s wrong that many health workers regard being physically attacked and verbally abused as simply part of the job. Part of this initiative should be that data of violent incidents is collected.


“But now is the time to move on from talking about problems to embedding real solutions so health teams can work in a safer, more equal environment where they feel valued, and can deliver patient care to the best of their abilities.”