Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane 5:32 pm, 14th May 2019

I am very pleased to follow Tim Farron, and to talk about the Government’s commitment to public health. This Government are providing an additional £4.5 billion for primary and community health services as part of the long-term plan for the NHS. In ensuring that this plan operates properly, a renewed focus has been put on prevention. When the Prime Minister announced the £33.9 billion funding boost for the NHS, she said that the accompanying 10-year plan must have that focus on prevention. As hon. Friends have said, none of this is possible without a strong economy and without a Government who understand that tackling the debt and the deficit is really important, because we cannot have the services we want unless we do that.

One of the key parts of the plan is the importance of new screening methods. Earlier testing for bowel cancer is one of the issues that will be dealt with. I want to say a big thank you for the grant of £79 million that we got to build new theatres at Musgrove Park Hospital, which is Somerset’s main hospital but also a really big hospital providing services across the south-west. With part of that grant, it is building a whole new endoscopy service and suite. This really will help the population not just of Somerset but the whole south-west with early diagnosis, which is the way we have to go. We also have a new MRI scanner, thanks to the community, which contributed towards it. That will help a great many people by picking up diseases early.

Somerset has a wonderful record on diabetes. Diabetes is a big issue, and amputations are very costly. One amputation costs £20,000, and a person with diabetes who has a limb amputated—sadly, that is what can happen—unfortunately then has a life expectancy of only five years. Somerset has implemented a diabetes foot pathway, which cut amputations from 122 to 66 in 2017. Not only are people living better and more healthily, but that pathway is saving the NHS a huge amount of money. That is the kind of model we need to put in place.

The public health grant remains ring-fenced, which I am very pleased about, and protected exclusively for improving health, but local government spending on health is not just about the grant. It is about local authorities being able to prioritise what they think is important, and indeed they are, with a range of innovative models in Somerset.

One third of Somerset residents will be 65 or over in 10 years’ time, compared with 21% nationally, and that has to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Somerset County Council is responsible for all adult social care, children’s services and special needs, which takes up 70% of its budget. While I welcome the Government giving another £240 million to adult social care and enabling local authorities to add adult social care to their precept, there are still pressing issues in Somerset that must be dealt with relating to the elderly population. Despite a great number of pressures, the council has done really well in sorting out its finances thanks to some tough decisions, but we have to make the resources go further. The council will be the subject of a “Panorama” documentary soon.

We must have better models. One model I want to mention is micro-providers. A list of self-employed, accredited providers can be accessed for all kinds of care and health needs across Somerset, so that people can stay at home, and providers go in to help them. We are using it at home for my family, and it really is a good model. I hope the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Seema Kennedy, will visit us to have a look at it.

We need to do more. While 92% of our care providers in Somerset are good or outstanding, which is above the national average of 83%, the current spending review needs to acknowledge that the pressures from not only the growing costs of care but being a rural county are different from those in other places. Somerset gets £730 of Government funding per head of population, which is 11% less than the national average. Our school transport gets less money than urban areas, and our public health funding from Government is only £36 a head, compared with £56 nationally. Will the Minister