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The National Health Service

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 4:43 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South 4:43 pm, 23rd October 2019

I am pleased to follow Mary Glindon and my hon. Friend Mike Wood, who gave very personal examples of how this debate touches us all, and our families, in the most intimate and moving way possible. I am glad to be in the Chamber to speak on a subject that I have long believed needed more focus, and I am pleased that it has been given the attention it deserves in the Queen’s Speech.

Demand is steadily growing and pressure will continue to rise in our health services. In in particular, we must focus on addressing the issues that social care brings up, in respect of both adult social care and children’s social care, which I shall touch on shortly. That is why I am glad that the Government have committed an extra £1 billion, in addition to the existing £2.5 billion that they have ring-fenced for adult and children’s social care. Why is that so important? Because adult social care and support enables people of all ages to live the lives that they want and deserve to lead. It helps people to maintain their own health, wellbeing and independence and, importantly, it reduces pressure on the NHS and the need for NHS services.

The Government launched the better care fund, which aims to join up the NHS and social care at local level, with almost £6.5 billion in 2019-20 and £2 billion pooled voluntarily last year to make sure that services are more joined up for patients. That joined-up approach at a local level is something I really believe in. If it is carried out in the right way, it can help to take some pressure away from the NHS and help to deliver a better service to local communities.

Although welcome, more money like that in the short term is not the ultimate answer. I have spoken many times in the House, including at Prime Minister questions, about the adult care Green Paper, so I welcome the pledges to get on with that and perhaps even move directly to a White Paper, informed by the work done in the joint report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee. I was involved in that report and many of its recommendations are very worth while.

In line with my speaking about adult care and the importance of local government working with the NHS on overall outcomes for health, I have a recent example from my constituency that demonstrates the importance of the whole public sector taking a holistic approach to health. The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing. Earlier this month in Northampton South, I met some truly inspirational parents, Jamie Shellard, Susan Underwood and Olivia Anderson, along with Councillor Julie Davenport. They had been fighting to secure local school transport for their children with special educational needs and health issues and disabilities. The scheme proposed by the county council wanted a pick-up and drop-off point for their children, but that would have meant that children who currently get picked up by many buses or taxis from their homes might instead have had to walk up to a mile to be picked up from unknown bus stops instead. That does not make any sense. It is an example of a disjointed approach when, as I say, it is more important for the left hand and the right hand to know what they are doing.

In addition to paying tribute to those inspirational parents and the tireless work that they have championed, let me explain why I have mentioned them. Their case underlines how, even in a single local authority with significant health responsibilities, there can be an inability to see at the bigger picture. It is good news that Northamptonshire County Council has now postponed that plan. I hope it will not come back at all. That case demonstrates how even highways and transport policies can have a direct impact on health and health services, which is why an integrated health and social care approach is important, and why we need all parts of local government and NHS services to work together in greater harmony, so that we can have the result we want for all our constituents who rely on those services.