NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 3:37 pm, 28th January 2016

As I teased the right hon. Gentleman last week at a Radio 5 Live interview, “so says the former Minister who was saying something quite different just a few months ago”! I do not want anyone to be under any illusion about this. I am not saying that we should not be planning for 30 and 40 years hence. I am saying that, given the vastly different ideological perspectives —I have provided one example, showing how much we disagree about the Health and Social Care Act 2012—trying to pretend that we can agree is naive.

In the last Parliament, I was chair of the parliamentary Labour party’s health committee, and we undertook an inquiry that looked into the effectiveness of international health systems—it is published on my website for everyone to have a look at. We were particularly concerned about quality and equity in access and outcomes, because we knew there was a vast difference in both those respects. The inquiry showed quite conclusively that where there was competition, privatisation or marketisation in the health system, health equities worsened. It revealed that there was no compelling evidence to show that competition, privatisation or marketisation improves healthcare quality. In fact, there is some evidence to show that it impedes quality, increases hospitalisation rates and mortality. This was peer-reviewed evidence—a review of a review of evidence—not one-off studies. It was the strongest type of evidence showing that marketisation and privatisation worsen health equity and worsen the quality of care.

We need to take a forward view, 30 or 40 years hence, about how to continue to fund the NHS and social care. This is a distraction, however, from the crisis that we have right now. We have seen A&E waits up 34% since 2015, failure to meet cancer 62-day treatment standards up 14%, and diagnostics up 36%. It goes on and on. Mental health cuts in 2014 meant the equivalent of £600 million-worth of cuts to mental health trusts. What has changed in the last few months? Delayed discharges reflect the care crisis, with £3.6 billion taken out of the budget for social care in the last Parliament. There is supposed to be £4.3 billion and a 2% precept, but it has been rightly said that it will not make up the difference. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West said, since 2010, half a million fewer older and disabled people have received state-funded support.

In my constituency, I was doing my regular door knocks when I encountered an elderly lady in her 70s. She opened the door and presented me with a bubble pack of medicines and told me that she did not know what she had to do. She had never met me before. She was dishevelled and wearing a dressing-gown in the middle of the afternoon. This was a woman who clearly needed our help and needed support. She was all on her own and did not know what the medications were. I managed to get somebody there. I wonder, though, how much more this is likely to be happening up and down the country. The system is in a crisis, which is a real concern.