NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health) 12:32 pm, 28th January 2016

I thank the hon. Lady—that is a very good point. I fundamentally believe in openness. It is much better if everyone understands what is going on, and then there can be a much more informed debate.

One of my big concerns is that despite some of the very good policy positions that have been taken nationally, too often, across the country, crisis management prevails. Because areas are so focused on propping up acute hospitals that are under the intense pressure I described, more and more money ends up being pumped into those hospitals while the preventive parts of the system are losing out and being cut further. It becomes a vicious circle, because the more we cut back on preventive care within NHS community services, general practice and social care, the more pressure we end up putting on hospitals. We cannot escape from this, and that is why we need the long-term solution that I have talked about.

In health and social care, demand keeps rising. This is unusual in public service terms when compared with, say, police and schools. Demand has risen at 4% a year throughout the post-war period. We all know the causes: we are living longer, new medicines and new technologies come on stream, we face challenges like obesity, and so forth. The cost pressures just keep going up. It is a well-established position that by 2020 there will be a £30 billion gap in NHS funding. The Health Foundation has said that in social care the gap will £6 billion. Those are enormous figures, and they take no account of the £1 billion additional cost from increasing the minimum wage. In responding, the Government have identified an extra £10 billion for the NHS, but that leaves a £20 billion shortfall. This is based on scenarios set out in the forward view. However, the scenario of a £20 billion shortfall involves efficiency savings that are completely unheard of in the whole history of the NHS. Virtually everyone one speaks to—not just people who refuse to accept the need for efficiencies—says that achieving efficiency savings of 2%, rising to 3%, is unachievable between now and 2020.