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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Independent, Ilford South 6:21 pm, 23rd October 2019

Let me begin by taking everybody back to the summer of 2012 and Danny Boyle’s fantastic ceremony at the start of the Olympic games. At that time, everybody was saying that the NHS was our secular religion, and in many senses that is true. It has been good to have cross-party support from everybody; no one in this House today has challenged the fundamentals of our NHS. But we all know that there is a long-term funding challenge. Social care is dealt with not by the NHS, but mainly by local government, and there is crisis in social care because local government budgets have been slashed. This Queen’s Speech goes a little way towards addressing the underfunding problems, but we have to be honest and realise that we must deal with this urgent issue of social care.

A week ago, I went to a conference organised by the East London Health and Care Partnership. One of the speakers there pointed out that there have been no fewer than nine plans or proposals for solving the social care problem, yet it is always put in the “too difficult” box, so those plans do not happen. Proposals are denounced as a death tax or a dementia tax. We need grown-up politics and we have to deal with this problem.

The same conference brought together all the NHS bodies in east London, with representatives from the boroughs of Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Redbridge, Newham, Havering, City and Hackney, and Barking and Dagenham, and the provider trusts of Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, East London NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust. The clinical commissioning groups for the areas I have listed were also reflected by the local authorities there. However, there is no integration. My borough, Redbridge, has integrated care with the north-east London foundation trust, and they do good work in a joined-up way, but each borough does different things. The NHS institutions do different things.

We have had some criticism here of what people have done in the past. I want to criticise the Labour Government for their PFI; there has been a major problem in terms of the costs at the Barking, Havering and Redbridge trust due to the PFI at Queen’s Hospital. I also want to criticise the fact that we were not allowed to take the intermediate care centre at King George Hospital back into the NHS because there was a company that took the NHS to court and won the legal challenge. But I also want to criticise, and this is why I am going to vote for the Opposition’s amendment tonight, the fragmentation of the NHS brought in by the Lansley Health and Social Care Act of the Liberal Democrats—do not forget it—and the Conservatives. If we are all doing mea culpas, we need to be honest, rather than trying to score points. What we are seeing in north-east and east London is a move back towards integration, away from what Lansley proposed.

I have been here for 27 years. I have seen all this stuff before. When I came in, there was an FHSA—a family health service authority. There was then a trust model. I had an integrated trust; mental health and acute services were in the same trust. Then it was divided. Then there were further divisions and further fragmentation. Then it was reorganised back again. That is very costly and expensive and we get the rotation of individuals. Bill Grant referred to this. People are getting huge amounts in redundancy payments and then reinventing themselves and coming back in another NHS organisation.

This cannot go on. It is really ridiculous. The public do not understand the terms. People who come to us as constituency MPs about an NHS issue do not know what a CCG is. They have no idea how to make a complaint through the system. MPs are acting as gatekeepers and advocates for our constituents to try to get through this minefield. We hear that there are going to be consultations, but most of them are predetermined shams.

I have led a campaign to save the A&E in my constituency. The former Member for Ilford North, Lee Scott, and I joined with the local paper on this campaign. The current Member for Ilford North was with me over more recent years. It took from 2006 until July this year, when the then Minister, Stephen Hammond confirmed in a parliamentary answer to me that the A&E at King George Hospital was saved, and that is in the draft response to the NHS plan. That is a fantastic victory for our community, but why did it have to take so long?