My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, has not been replaced by a robot, and I thank him for the wonderful way in which he introduced an important debate on an important day. Like many people in our country, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the NHS. It nursed me back to health when I broke my back in a riding accident at the age of 17, and today the brilliant rheumatology and orthopaedic departments at Guy’s and St Thomas’, along with my exceptional GP Stephen Liversedge, literally hold me together and keep me physically and economically active. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Winston, on the birth of his new grandchild. Three weeks ago my daughter gave birth to my grandson at St Thomas’. I cannot praise the community midwives and the staff of St Thomas’ who looked after her highly enough.
It is hard work not being well, especially as you get older or suffer economic hardship alongside being poorly. In the mid-1990s, when I was deputy chairman of the then Salford Royal Hospital NHS Trust, I would regularly pop into the hospital at weekends to speak to visitors, patients and staff when they had a bit more time to talk and were less stressed. Invariably, at the top of their health concerns would be worries about not being able to park, difficulty getting transport to hospital, childcare while they were in hospital or visiting, weariness at constantly having to explain their symptoms and their circumstances, fear of losing their independence and their job and fear of not being able to cope with the financial burden of recuperation or to care for themselves or their relatives when they returned home. Much of this is beyond the control of the NHS, but all of it is an important ingredient in the recovery and well-being of patients and their families. That is why it is crucial that we bring together as many services and patients as possible, taking a holistic view that puts people at the centre of decision-making.
In 2015 the 37 NHS organisations and local authorities in Greater Manchester came together to form the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and signed a ground-breaking agreement with the Government to transfer the management of these services to Greater Manchester. The Government’s enabling legislation, the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, made this a reality. In one of its documents, the partnership said:
“Our health and social care reform is built on the need to reimagine services across our whole care system”.
I am delighted to say that, in my home town of Bolton, which is one of the 10 metropolitan and city councils that make up Greater Manchester, reimagining began on Tuesday with a decision by the council and the NHS to work together to take steps to join up health and care. I wish them well.
This builds on an already established and visionary partnership between the council, the NHS and the University of Bolton, which in 2012 saw the opening of Bolton One, a £31 million health, leisure and research centre. Our universities, with their research facilities and training in new ways of working, are vital in this mix of integrated care—and it is not just universities with medical schools but all universities across the country that are delivering excellent work in health and social care. I hope noble Lords will indulge me if I single out the University of Bolton, where I served as the first chancellor, for being ranked number one in England for teaching quality across its nursing courses in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018.
I cannot begin to imagine what the future of the NHS will look like, with new technologies and redesigned services. But the one constant will be the dedication and experience of the people on the ground, doing the job and working so hard to look after us and keep us well. I pay tribute to them and wish the NHS a very happy 70th birthday.