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I agreed with very little of what Owen Smith said when we were on the Public Bill Committee together, and I am afraid that I will not change my view after hearing what he has said today. He touched, however, on the important issue of health economics. In a thoughtful speech, Debbie Abrahams made some good points about health economics. Much as I would rather talk just about patient care, given my medical background, health economics are at the centre of the discussion about how we will reform and improve the NHS.
The comprehensive spending review announced that the NHS would see its funding rise by 0.4% in real terms over the next four years. Despite the current economic climate, the Government have stood by their commitment to increasing NHS funding over this Parliament—we are very proud of that—but, even so, it is the smallest increase in NHS funding for decades. Ever-increasing patient demand for health care coupled with Britain’s demographic time bomb means that over the next few years the NHS will have to achieve value for money for its patients on an unprecedented scale.
Our NHS needs to make efficiency savings just to stand still and to continue to deliver high-quality patient care. My right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood
(Mr Dorrell) hit the nail right on the head when he said that we need to think about not just the worried well but the 80% to 85% of patients who have serious medical co-morbidities or present as emergencies with acute medical problems in accident and emergency. That desire lies at the heart of the Government’s proposed reforms.
People are living longer, and as they do the number of people living with multiple medical co-morbidities also increases. The majority of people require their health care in the later stages of their lives and if we are to have an NHS that is truly responsive to the demographics of this country, we need to ensure better integration of health and social care. We must stop the silo working that often exists between local authorities and the NHS and ensure that we have a more locally responsive NHS. At the heart of the Bill is a desire to see better integration of adult social care and NHS care, which can only be a good thing in view of this country’s demographics and of the health economics of looking after people in the later years of their lives.