Local Government and Social Care Funding

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:24 pm on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes 3:24 pm, 24th April 2019

My hon. Friend is quite right. I am being slightly facetious in saying that we do not need to bring out the Green Paper. However, it would be very welcome indeed if the Green Paper contained some of the Select Committee’s recommendations.

We need a long-term funding solution, and I have discussed this with the Minister previously. The four-year settlement for local government was really helpful. If local authorities could have a 10-year settlement like the NHS has just had, they could do far more with their money, even if they were not seeing the significant increases that they would particularly like.

My third request is to look at the better use of our healthcare and social care professionals. We have grown up with a historical medical model that has depended on doctors and GPs, but people often need a diverse range of professionals to help them. The East Sussex Better Together model has just announced its community pharmacy programme, which is improving communications for patients discharged from hospital and helping them with their medication. The transfers of care around medicine project, or TCAM, is enabling those patients at risk of delayed discharges or readmission to hospital to have a dedicated pharmacist to help them, because we know that having problems with medication is one of the core reasons that people fail when they are discharged from hospital.

Under the community pharmacy programme, pharmacists would have access to patients’ medications, and would be able to answer their questions, monitor side effects and issue repeat prescriptions—things that often do not happen when someone is discharged home. The research and evidence base show that following such a model will reduce admissions and length of stay, and give patients a better experience and better outcomes. Some 112 pharmacies in East Sussex are going to take part in the project, which is a joint working venture between the county council and the clinical commissioning groups. I encourage the Minister to look at rolling this scheme out across the country, so that we can move away from being so dependent on GPs and doctors. I am conscious that there are a number of doctors in the House this afternoon. Doctors do valuable work, but there are other healthcare professionals that we should also be using.

This is not just about funding. Although the Government have given £20 billion extra for the health service, funding for local councils has increased by £1.3 billion this year—an increase of 2.8% compared to last year—and we have given extra money for winter funding, it is what authorities do with that money that makes the biggest difference. We need a long-term solution and a specific funding supplement, as recorded and recommended by the Select Committee. We also need to make better use of some of the fantastic resources that we sometimes fail to recognise. We can do a lot more, even with the existing resources. I am disappointed that the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson did not take the same tone as the Chair of the Select Committee, because we can do more to improve the lives of our constituents.