I care deeply about our NHS and have repeatedly raised with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Health the fact that the government is failing in its promises to properly support our National Health Service, and in particular parity of esteem between mental health and physical health.
For instance, through my detailed Freedom of Information investigative work I have uncovered the fact that a majority of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), 57 per cent, are planning to spend a smaller proportion of their budgets on mental health this year when the government have pledged that they would spend more. I also achieved an admission from the Secretary of State for Health that key mental health staff and resources are being cut. There are 1,500 fewer beds, 5,000 fewer nurses and 400 fewer doctors since 2010 – this is the severe damage that the Tories have inflicted on our mental health services in the last six years. All of these cuts place increased burdens on our stretched A&E services, locally and nationally.
I have put down Early Day Motion 505 in Parliament to highlight the need for parity of esteem between physical and mental health to be made a reality because I believe that properly funded mental health services are crucial to achieving a National Health Service that delivers the quality care and treatment we all need.
You can see some of my interventions on the links below:
I have also raised the importance of local services. This includes the new pharmacy contract which threatens the future of crucial community pharmacy services. You can see my speech by clicking on the link below:
I am particularly proud that the millionth signature against these cuts was collected here in Liverpool Wavertree. The petition has gone on to collect over two million signatures nationally.
Of course, the NHS also needs properly funded social care and preventative public health services. These, alongside the NHS capital budget have been cut. Health spending rose at an historically low rate of 1.1 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2015-16. In comparison – the independent Health Charity, the Nuffield Trust – has noted that under the previous Labour government, health expenditure growth increased at an average rate of approximately 6 per cent per year between 1997 and 2009. The current government has cut public health funding and health education budgets and has consistently underfunded social care.
Collectively, NHS Trusts finished 2015-16 with a record deficit of £2.45 billion, the largest in the NHS’s history. It is also troubling that the average amount we spend on healthcare for each person in this country is set to fall in 2018-19. A poll of 99 clinical commissioning groups, reported in the national media, has found that that one in three local areas intend to close or downgrade A&E departments within 18 months, one in five expect to close consultant-led maternity services, and more than half plan to close or downgrade community hospitals. Research from the UK Home Care Association has showed that nine out of 10 councils in the UK are unable to afford the cost of adult social care and the Care Quality Commission said last month that the sector was at ‘tipping point’ with cuts leading to more pressure on hospitals. Cuts to local authority budgets have left the vast majority of councils unable to pay for a fragmented and costly social care system.
The human costs of the NHS’s financial problems are longer waits and poorer care, with hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.
I have recently been elected onto the cross-party parliamentary Health Select Committee. It conducted an inquiry into the state of NHS Finances and has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to ask him to commit to ensuring that the health service has the resources which it needs to meet the rising demands upon it. The letter raises a number of very serious questions about the sustainability of our health and social care system without extra funding. Whilst the Government has consistently stated a figure of £10 billion that it is going to give to the NHS, the Health Select Committee concluded this figure is ‘not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash.’
We need honesty and transparency from the government about the crisis facing the NHS and full community engagement from local health services about the transformation of services that are due to take place in the coming years. However, the Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) that are being compiled by local health services could be used to cut services.
There is a case for bringing health and social care stakeholders together to improve planning and coordination. However, I am concerned that the proposed STPs could have devastating consequences for frontline services and make it harder for patients to access face-to-face consultations with their GPs, and will also open the door to more privatisation. So far, the process for STPs lacks transparency and the timeline is insufficient to allow for adequate public or Parliamentary engagement in their formulation, or to finalise such a major restructure of the NHS.
I believe the government should close NHS deficits with funds – not more cuts.
As a constituency MP I hold my surgeries on Thursdays and Fridays, as well using my time to deal with case work, visit constituents, local services, including schools, and organisations, including charities. Many of these appointments are long-standing and cannot be changed. This means that I was not in Parliament for the Second Reading of the NHS Reinstatement Private Members Bill on Friday November 4.
I fully support a comprehensive health service provided free of charge to all at the point of need.
The top-down reorganisation of the NHS, brought about by the Tory-led Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act 2012, threw the system into turmoil, cost over £3 billion and totally eroded staff morale. The NHS is still living with the consequences of that chaos.
I remain committed to repealing the competition and fragmentation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, and ensuring that patient care and collaboration is always put before profits.
I will continue as a constituency MP and a member of the Health Select Committee to hold the government to account and press it to deliver a NHS locally and nationally that meets the needs of everyone who needs it.