It is a pleasure to follow Mr Betts, the Chair of the Select Committee. I agree with everything that he said in the last part of his speech. It is a shame that his Front-Bench team did not take a similar approach. The shadow Minister spoke for nearly 40 minutes and did not come up with one solution or proposal as to how we improve social care.
I am a great believer in the idea that it is not what you do but the way that you do it. In the same way, I believe that it is not how much you spend but how you spend it that makes the difference. As someone whose constituency falls in the county of East Sussex, which has the highest number of over-85 year olds in the country, I can speak with first- hand knowledge about the pressures on our social care system. I am not saying to the Minister that East Sussex does not need more funding, because it most definitely does. East Sussex has set up its Better Together system, working hand in hand with the NHS. Last winter, by working with the clinical commissioning groups and funnelling money into community care beds, it managed to reduce its delayed discharges by 33%, and that was despite an 11% increase in demand. The £2.5 million extra given to East Sussex by the Government this winter went into the system and, as a result, there were no delayed discharges or ambulances queuing up at the hospitals’ closed A&Es. The system was able to cope even with an increased number of norovirus and flu outbreaks.
Last year, we were subjected to urgent question after urgent question about the winter hospital crisis. Sadly, even with the system coping so well this winter, we have not had any acknowledgement of how hard NHS staff and local council staff have worked to ensure that, despite the extra pressure, there was no winter crisis this year. That success is because councils and the NHS are working much better together than they have ever done before.
We need to see what East Sussex is doing across the board. Although it is welcome that we now have a Health and Social Care Department, we are not seeing that joined-up working at a national level. I am concerned that if we do not see that joined-up work across the board, the £20 billion extra going into the NHS will be eaten up by the pressures on social care. If patients do not get the social care they need, their health will deteriorate, they will be admitted more often, they will be sicker when they are admitted and they will be in for longer periods of time. Their discharges will be delayed and their outcomes will be poorer. Not funding social care properly, or not using that money wisely, is a penny-wise and pound-foolish approach.
When this Session comes to an end and we have a new Queen’s speech, I hope that social care will be top of the agenda. I wish to see three things. First, there is the funding of social care. I am sad that the amendment to this Opposition day motion was not selected. I too have a copy of the report of the joint Select Committees, “The long-term funding of adult social care”. The hon. Member for Sheffield South East is right: instead of having a Green Paper, let us just get on with the recommendations in this report, because there is cross-party support for looking at a social care premium system, such as the one in Germany. We must be honest with the British public: there will need to be funding for social care. We need to have something, instead of people who have worked hard all their lives selling their homes to pay for social care—and not realising that that is what they will have to do—or refusing social care until they reach a crisis point and then have to pay for it.