Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:41 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes 5:41 pm, 14th May 2019

Like my hon. Friend Gillian Keegan, I am disappointed that in this debate we are using health once again as a political football, and that we are constantly talking down the NHS. I say that as someone who still works in the NHS, as you can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, from my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I am still working in the NHS, and for the staff and those working day in and day out, it is depressing not to have some of the many achievements recognised.

Where is the recognition that this year, after huge investment and better co-ordination, we have seen no winter crisis? In previous years, there were urgent questions demanding answers year after year, but the Government have delivered on that. My local council in East Sussex got £2 million this winter, and despite an 11% increase in demand, there was a 33% reduction in delayed discharges. That is because social care and healthcare are working better together.

Where is the recognition of the achievements in tackling breast cancer? Mortality rates for breast cancer are down 38% since the 1970s and down 22% in the last decade, while they are predicted to fall further by 23% in the next decade. That is personal for me because I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was a teenager, and four of my aunts. If they had been diagnosed now, their chances of survival would be so much better. That is down to improved early detection and screening, improved treatments for many of the difficult-to-treat breast cancers, and improvements in follow-up and early detection. And where is the recognition for cancers overall? According to Cancer Research UK, mortality rates for most cancers are predicted to fall between now and 2035.

Where is the recognition of the progress made on HIV? According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, in relation to the overall mortality for those aged between 15 and 59 who are now diagnosed early, for the first time ever their life expectancy is equal to that of the general population.

Where is the recognition of improvements for stroke outcomes? In its “State of the nation” publication, the Stroke Association says that stroke deaths have now fallen by half since the 1990s. That is because we are reducing risk factors, detecting early risk factors early and getting treatment started within an hour of a stroke happening. The stroke call that now goes out in A&E when someone arrives, with the urgent CT and the anti-embolism treatment, means that people do not just survive a stroke, but live better lives after a stroke. That is so important, given that stroke now causes almost twice as many deaths as breast cancer. Smoking rates have fallen, as the Secretary of State explained; 14.9% of people now smoke, compared with 19.8% in 2011. TB rates have fallen by 40%, whereas under the previous Labour Government they were actually increasing.

We have much to celebrate in public health and in the NHS, but there is no doubt that we could do with more funding. I say that as a Member for an East Sussex constituency, where life expectancy is higher than the national average, because so many people retire to the south coast—we have the highest number of 85-year-olds in the country. As I mentioned in a recent debate, we would like another four-year funding settlement for social care, so that we could make better plans for our ageing population.

I will conclude with the facts that I would like to see included in the Humble Address to Her Majesty, because this is not just about complaining about what we have not got. Perhaps the Labour party would like to explain to Her Majesty why it voted against the £16 billion of public health spending between now and 2021, and also why it has not supported the £20 billion a year for the NHS, or the extra £4.5 billion for primary and community health services. As those on the Government Front Bench will know, I am often a critical friend of the Government, but I would like to stand on facts, rather than causing political mischief.