NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South 3:09 pm, 28th January 2016

Well, they have. The Government have a responsibility to respond to the Health Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman waits until the end of the speech, he will see where I am heading. I agree with his idea that something needs to be put together. I do not like knocking good ideas on the head; I like to see such things taken forward. As Jeremy Lefroy said, it is either “a commission or whatever”. It may be that the right hon. Member for North Norfolk has a good role to play in pulling all this together and taking forward the idea somehow, but at the end of the day, it is a political decision for the Government of the day to consider.

I want to move on to discuss my local hospital, Manor hospital, and the local authority. In Walsall, we are lucky to have a settled community, and we have one local authority dealing with the local hospital. Work is carried out by the local authority and the hospital together, and they can talk things through. When difficulties arose at the hospital in Stafford—the A&E closed, and we had to take on extra maternity services—it was much more difficult, taking on patients from different areas, to deal with local authorities in different areas. Such relationships had not been built up, but they can be built up and, with the best will in the world, I am sure they will be. We know that workers in the health service work very hard and extremely well together to ensure that such relationships exist. If that works for one local authority, I am sure it can work for other neighbouring authorities.

Interestingly, the right hon. Member for North Norfolk has involved two former Secretaries of State for Health, Alan Milburn and Stephen Dorrell, in his commission. If I was really cruel, I might say that they were Secretaries of State for Health, so why did they not do something about it then and why do they think they can do something about it now? As I have said, there is a way forward. Many Members have alluded to the myriad reports. The King’s Fund has produced a report, the Nuffield Trust has produced one and many universities have produced reports. There have been lots of words, but we need a little more action.

My only difficulty with the proposed commission is the accountability structure. I am not sure who it would report to and there would be no obligation on the Government to respond to it in the way that they have to respond to the Health Committee.

I want to touch on the issue of money. We had a reorganisation of the health service that cost £2 billion and counting. If the Government can sit down with a company to reduce its tax liability and, hence, what flows into the coffers of the Treasury, that has an enormous impact on the Mrs Smiths of this world and on all of us. That is why, as our second report of 2014-15 stated, the Government said in evidence to the Select Committee that

“the ambition of achieving integrated health and care services by 2017 had been given ‘quite a turbo charge’ by the introduction of the Better Care Fund”.

The then Minister of State, the right hon. Member for North Norfolk, said that

“by 2015 the whole country will be starting to see a significant change.”

That may be something that the Health Committee could look at and produce a report on or even that the “commission”—in inverted commas—or whatever it is that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues extract from the Government could consider.

We have the evidence—we have the care trust and the pilot—and, in the Government’s own turbo-charged words, we have the will, hopefully. Finally, I am not persuaded that a commission will bring about the change that all of us so desperately need.