Health and Social Care

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:56 pm on 16th January 2020.

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Photo of Anne Marie Morris Anne Marie Morris Conservative, Newton Abbot 2:56 pm, 16th January 2020

That was a very thought-provoking, emotional and personal contribution from Florence Eshalomi, who I very much welcome to this place. She made some very important points about the NHS and knife crime, and I look forward to her working with all of us in this House to deliver exactly what she rightly says we must. I congratulate her.

It is right that health and care are a substantial part of this Gracious Speech, but it must be about action, not just words and promises. Across the House, whichever party we represent, we must deliver on what our constituents need and want and what we have promised them. I welcome the inquiry into social care. My concern is that this has been promised by Governments for years, and it seems to be taking forever and a day. This is urgent—it cannot wait. We must talk cross-party and look at the work that has been done, rather than do it all over again. Let us look at what works and does not work, take the good and move forward. I would like to see a Bill on social care in this Parliament.

Integration is another key issue. Members across the House have pushed for integration, and we need to make it happen. NHS England has proposed legislation to unblock the things preventing this from working. I am pleased to see the Bill to implement the NHS long-term plan, but I would like it to be more ambitious. It is right to address the commissioning challenge, but the Bill does not address the overlapping regulatory system, the conflicting accountability between health and social care or any of the legal relationships. Where are we with sustainability and transformation partnerships and integrated care systems? They have no legal status, yet we look to them to deliver a solution on integration. More must be done, and we must be bold.

Across the Chamber, we agree that mental health is a priority, but again, where is the ambition? Dealing with detention is crucial, but we must also look at parity of esteem. It is not defined. We talk about mental health representing something like 23% of the burden on the NHS, but how is that measured? Is that really the totality of the issue? We need to define parity of esteem, be clear how we will measure the need and address that need as a matter of urgency. We talk about achieving parity of esteem over the next 10 years, but that seems an incredibly long time. I would like to see a proper plan, and I would like to see parity considerably sooner than 10 years from now.

There was an extremely well-made speech a little earlier about wellbeing. For so long, we have talked about the NHS and health, but actually we talk about illness, not about wellness. When we talk about Public Health England, that is not the only part of trying to ensure wellbeing. Professor Dame Sally Davies, the former chief medical officer, has said that wellness is as important as dealing with illness. I would like to see that fully addressed, and I very much hope that those on the Front Bench are listening and will take that seriously.

The assets that we have to address our problems are not infinite. We have some wonderful people, we have some wonderful infrastructure—buildings and hospitals—and we have some wonderful technology.