NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Health) 3:53 pm, 28th January 2016

I, too, attended the debate on 2 June last year, and I remember expressing my shock at the violence that was taking place between the Dispatch Boxes. I considered leaving the Chamber, because it did not seem to be a very useful debate and I did not see the point of taking part in it, but then I thought “No, let us get in and tackle this”, and I did make a comment. I said that, regardless of the differences in the way in which politicians would “do” the NHS, the public absolutely believed in it. We have had a fantastic debate today, because people have expressed different views and different outlooks, but have done so calmly.

As was mentioned by Norman Lamb, the challenges of increasing demand caused by age and multi-morbidity are found not just north and south of the border, but throughout the developed world. We also face the challenge of not having enough doctors, in both primary and secondary care. That, too, applies throughout the nations of the United Kingdom.

There are some challenges that we do not face in Scotland. We have not experienced the fragmentation that resulted from the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Indeed, we got rid of hospital trusts back in 2004. We have gone, therefore, to geographical boards—we just have health boards—so there is no barrier between primary and secondary care, which people used to pitch across. Since April of last year our joint integration boards have become active. They ran in a theoretical way for about a year, but the vast majority of them went live last year and the last one will go live in April this year. That is putting the pot of money into a joint space where health and social care work together, break down the barriers and realise there is no benefit in sticking a person in a bed and then looking to see who should pay for it. What purse the money is in has often been the biggest problem.

We cannot develop integration if what we are actually developing is fragmentation and competition. That is why we have not gone down the route of outsourcing to private providers. It wastes a lot money and effort, and people are competing instead of co-operating.

We obviously have different systems in Scotland. We have free personal care, the level of which has been increased to allow us to keep at home people with more complicated conditions. That is important. Since June of last year we have been going through a national conversation. Whether we have a commission, a committee or whatever, it is important that the public and the staff are involved, as well as the people who have written all the reports—Marmot, Wanless, Barker, the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust. There must be a way of bringing these together and picking out the good bits to get a shape. Our piece of work is looking towards 2030; that is what we are working on at the moment.

We did a piece of work that started in 2011-12 called “2020 Vision”. It was very like “Five Year Forward View” and addressed where we wanted to be and what shape we wanted. That identified that the No. 1 thing was integrating health and social care.

Talking about the money for this and where it comes from is always going to be political. At the moment national insurance is bizarre; it starts when people earn £7,000 when we would not tax them, and it stops when people retire, although they might be incredibly wealthy. I do not think people see it as national health insurance, which is how it started. Where the money comes from and what it is put towards is a political decision.

To get some kind of shared view of where NHS England and indeed the NHS in all the nations want to be in 2030 could be a useful piece of work. I totally agree with the hon. Members who have expressed anxiety about kicking this into the long grass. I certainly do not think it needs to stop any piece of work going forward. To me, this provides a place where that can come. One of the features in Scotland in developing quality measures is bringing groups of people together for an annual conference; I am a great believer in getting people into a room—maybe not always a room like this one; maybe a more co-operative room—so that people can say “This is what we found difficult. This is how we fixed it. This is where we are stuck. I see you solved that.”

One of the projects that Nicola Sturgeon has taken forward is called “once for Scotland”. It is not eternally going through local projects and experiments that never get shared with anybody, and everyone reinvents the wheel. That is a huge waste of energy.

Obviously the Government have committed to the £10 billion and that has been welcomed, but more than £2 billion of that is already gone in the deficits. That increase is focused purely on NHS England, whereas normally funding is described in all the Department of Health responsibilities. The other responsibilities are facing a cut that is described as approximately £3 billion. The King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation identify the increase as in fact about £4.5 billion—so not exactly the headline figure.

The “Five Year Forward View” has been mentioned, and that asks for £8 billion but it also identified £22 billion that had to be found. That is fairly eye-watering. Let us think about two of the things that were identified within that. One was a change in how people worked.