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Collated responses from health sector organisations to the King’s Speech

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Health charities and royal colleges have welcomed the initiative to ban tobacco, strongly criticised not including reforms of the mental health act, and a mixed response to long term plans for the NHS workforce.

Extract from the King’s speech to both houses of parliament on 7th November 2023:

Working with NHS England, my Government will deliver its plans to cut waiting lists and transform the long-term workforce of the National Health Service. This will include delivering on the NHS workforce plan, the first long-term plan to train the doctors and nurses the country needs, and minimum service levels to prevent strikes from undermining patient safety.  Record levels of investment are expanding and transforming mental health services to ensure more people can access the support they need.  My Government will introduce legislation to create a smokefree generation by restricting the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged fourteen or younger can never be sold cigarettes, and restricting the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes to children.

The full speech is transcribed and available to watch on the government website: The King's Speech 2023

Here we have compiled some of the key responses to the King’s speech to parliament this week. Please follow the links to read the full responses.

Royal College of Psychiatrists: King’s Speech ‘disappointing’ – with absence of long-term decisions on mental health for future generations

In response to today's King's Speech, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Lade Smith CBE said: “His Majesty spoke of 'long-term decisions for future generations'. However, it was disappointing to see there was no inclusion of new and long-term investment in mental healthcare to meet the expanding need and demand. As feared, reform of the Mental Health Act was not included in the King’s speech – which means it will not be achieved before the next General Election, despite being promised by this Government in its last manifesto. We have seen no action from Government to tackle the underlying causes of rising detentions under the Mental Health Act. These continue to rise at an unacceptable rate, with people from Black and racialised communities facing hugely disproportionate rates of detention.”

Royal College of General Practitioners: ‘Notable omissions in Kings Speech’, says RCGP

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, responds to the King’s Speech on 7 November. Professor Hawthorne said: “An aspiration for a smoking-free society is one that all healthcare professionals, having seen the devastating consequences smoking can have on their patients' health, should be able to get behind. It is much easier to never have started smoking, than trying to stop once a habit has formed, so we are pleased to see steps towards a phased smoking ban outlined in today’s State Opening of Parliament.

Royal College of Nursing: King’s speech: government fails to address nursing workforce crisis in last chance before election

RCN Chief Nurse Professor Nicola Ranger said: “The Prime Minister has failed to deliver legislation to address the crisis in the nursing workforce and our NHS and patients will continue to pay the price until at least the next election. The future of health and care services will be defined by whether politicians listen to those who work in them. Right now, nursing staff are caring for people in corridors, unsafe numbers of patients, and they’re raising the alarm over record shortages.”

Royal College of Physicians: RCP welcomes Tobacco and Vapes Bill in King's speech

Responding to today's King's speech, Professor Sanjay Agrawal, the RCP's special adviser on tobacco, said: “We welcome the Tobacco and Vapes Bill confirmed today in the King’s speech to create a smoke-free generation by raising the age of sale of tobacco and reducing the allure and availability of e-cigarettes for children. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the UK. The RCP has long called for measures to curb the significant health risks posed by tobacco consumption. This prevention-first approach will pay dividends for future generations as we look to improve public health, reduce demand on the NHS, tackle health inequalities and create a more prosperous society.”

Mind: UK government shelves the Mental Health Bill

Responding to the Mental Health Bill being dropped from the King’s Speech, Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “The long overdue Mental Health Bill is a chance to overhaul the way the system works when people are in a mental health crisis. It is an opportunity to address the deep racial injustices in the use of the Act, with Black people being four times more likely to be detained. It is also a crucial chance to prevent people being stripped of their dignity, voice and independence when they are sectioned. That chance has now been missed, and the UK government has broken its promise to thousands of people, their loved ones and the nation as a whole to reform the Act.”

Cancer Research UK: King’s Speech lays out plans for a smoke free future

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK's chief executive said: “Smoking rates fall when leaders take decisive action: that’s why we support the UK Government’s commitment to changing the age of sale of tobacco announced in the King’s Speech today. The Government should move to bring this legislation before Parliament in early 2024, and we call on MPs from all parties to support it.”

British Heart Foundation: Tobacco measures headline King’s Speech

Dr Charmaine Griffiths, British Heart Foundation’s Chief Executive, said: "Thousands of unnecessary deaths from cardiovascular disease could be avoided with the landmark smoking legislation included in today's King's Speech. If delivered in full, this Bill will help to protect countless hearts for generations to come.”   


Image: delfi de la Rua