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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Mental Health) 4:48 pm, 23rd October 2019

It is an absolute privilege to speak in this debate on the Queen’s Speech and the NHS. I basically committed most of my adult life to working in the NHS. I heard the poignant speeches from the hon. Members for Dudley South (Mike Wood) and for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) regarding their very personal experiences. That goes to show that the NHS is part of us all—it is part of our families—and therefore we owe it a debt of gratitude. We owe it everything we have in terms of supporting it going forward.

I am pleased that, as the debate has progressed, it has seemed much more cross-party and consensual. When I worked in the NHS, I would have said that having it pelted about like a political football was no good. It might seem like something we can all banter about in this place, but for staff working in the NHS and watching it, it is very serious, and they want it and the issues to be taken seriously. I am therefore pleased that, as the debate has continued, we seem to be coming together on many issues and to be able to take them forward consensually.

I pay particular tribute to the staff who work in the NHS and to the staff who work in social care because that role is largely undervalued in today’s society. However, it is absolutely crucial. To be honest, the NHS just does not function without the integration with social care that we are trying to achieve. Fifteen minutes of care is not enough. This needs to be appropriately funded. I know that from personal experience, as a carer for my own grandmother. We had to bring her to live with us because we felt that the social care system left her feeling quite lonely; she had only certain episodes of care each day. She needed mental stimulation as well as practical physical care. So I hope the Government will consider those issues and make sure that we look at social care in a holistic way and that we look at people’s mental health and loneliness alongside their physical health needs, because 15 minutes of care, as it has been tagged, is certainly not enough.

I am delighted that mental health is a key focus. Had I been elected 20 years ago, when I started my career in the NHS—beyond that now, if I am honest—that would have been a closed door. We have come quite a long way in terms of mental health. There is a long way still to go but I am pleased that it has been prioritised. I ask that there is investment for child and adolescent mental health services. As awareness of the need grows, young people are coming forward, but they need to be seen and treated very quickly.

In particular, I want to ask the Minister about training in autism diagnosis for staff in CAMHS. It is not about providing new staff to CAMHS; it is about providing training for existing staff, so that there is no postcode lottery anywhere in the NHS. For a family with a young child reaching those developmental milestones or losing one or two developmental milestones, waiting for a diagnosis and adequate support is far too long a time to wait.

I pay tribute to the Thalidomide Campaign, which had its 60th anniversary event at Speaker’s House just last week. My constituent, Jerry Cleary, has battled for years for justice. I ask the Minister to consider meeting me, members of the campaign and Members who have constituents who are affected because they told me last week that they feel like the forgotten campaign—the forgotten tragedy—and that really cannot happen in today’s society.

Like other Members, I would like to mention medicinal cannabis. I have a tragic case in my constituency. Lisa Quarrell has a young son, Cole Thomson, who has now been prescribed medicinal cannabis, but they have to pay for this prescription at great cost. It will not be prescribed in the UK, so they are having to travel back and forward. Can she be included in the medical trials going forward? She came down to meet the Secretary of State and he promised that she would be included, yet she has not been. She needs to know what the outcome is and we really urge him to see this through.

I thank everyone who has taken part in the debate in a consensual way. I hope that we continue to build on that because, as I have said, the NHS is there for us all in our time of need. We must be there for the NHS.