The NHS - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:16 pm on 5th July 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Tyler of Enfield Liberal Democrat 3:16 pm, 5th July 2018

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, on securing this extremely timely debate, and pay tribute to the wonderful work and care of all staff in both the health and social care sectors. I will start with my favourite Bevan quote before someone else gets it in. Back in 1948 he said:

“Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune the cost of which should be shared by the community”.

How do we reinterpret this incredibly important founding sentiment of the NHS in the modern age and over the next 70 years?

Recent polling by the King’s Fund shows that the British people have a great deal and pride in and good will towards the NHS. Despite this, securing proper long-term investment to achieve a fully integrated health and care service has sometimes felt like pulling teeth. Yes, the Prime Minister announced that the NHS would get a 3.4% yearly rise for its birthday and of course that is to be welcomed, but we cannot ignore the fact that the often-cited 4% necessary to even maintain existing standards, let alone improve and transform services, is still some way off. Sadly, as others have said, this new long-term funding settlement has so far ignored social care and public health and there is no clarity on what proportion of this money will go into mental health care—something I hope the Minister will be able to help us with this afternoon.

To meet increasing demand, the NHS will need more than just money: it will need a wholesale shift to promoting health as well as healthcare, to ensuring wellness rather than just treating illness, and to integrating health services so that they can be centred around the individual and the holistic needs of each patient. It came as no surprise to read in the Guardian last week that keeping the same doctor improves a patient’s life expectancy. This is great news so why is it so often not the case?

Turning briefly to social care, as we have just heard, continuous cuts, coupled with chronic long-term underinvestment, have left social care in a dire state. In their recent report, What’s the Problem with Social Care, and Why Do We Need to Do Better?, four leading health and social care bodies reported that to qualify for publicly funded social care, someone now needs to be 12% poorer than eight years ago. Meanwhile, informal carers continue to carry the bulk of the burden. The IPPR estimates that insufficient social care costs the NHS £3 billion a year, and with an ageing population these costs are bound to increase. If we are serious about safeguarding the NHS and its future, social care needs its birthday cake, too, and it needs to be a big one.

Turning to public health, in their recent report, The NHS at 70: Are We Expecting Too Much from the NHS?, those same four health bodies again emphasised that the most important factors in people’s health and life expectancy relate to the economic, physical and social environment in which they live. Therefore, public health must be made a priority if we are to have a healthier population.

Mental health is starting to get the public attention that it deserves. A recent Ipsos MORI poll found that the public rate it as their second-to-top health priority, which is great—but it is critical that those money increases are accompanied by mental health services that are much better integrated with physical health, community care and social care. So when the Minister winds up, perhaps he will tell us whether he feels that it is acceptable that currently only some one in four people with a mental health problem is able to access treatment, and what plans the Government have to increase this—and, specifically, what percentage of the new money announced for the NHS will go to mental health.

I conclude by saying that a good way of addressing all the issues that I and others have raised today will be to reframe the way we talk about the NHS as a national wellness service rather than one that just treats illness. I like to think that Aneurin Bevan and Beveridge would approve of that sentiment.