The NHS - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:51 pm on 5th July 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 4:51 pm, 5th July 2018

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, in his superb opening speech, reminded us that we must not forget what the alternatives to the NHS look like, when whole tranches of the population cannot pay for care. As Bevan said:

“The field in which the claims of individual commercialism come into most immediate conflict with reputable notions of social values is that of health”.

It is said that you cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have come from. Our roots go back far. Lady Beatrice Webb led the 1909 minority report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law, which called for a unified medical service. Beveridge, himself a researcher for the minority report, recognised the influence of that on himself. Then Bevan, in an inspired political appointment, took on the medical resisters, and we all celebrate the benefit from their defeat.

My interests go back more than four and a half decades, working fully in the NHS. I am grateful to all the patients I have looked after, who have taught me so much and enriched my life. It is a two-way process, and it is has been an honour and privilege to work with them.

In Bevan’s book In Place of Fear, he wrote:

“Preventable pain is a blot on any society. Much sickness and often permanent disability arise from a failure to take early action”.

By embracing artificial intelligence, we now have amazing opportunities for early action: we can decrease error, diagnose sepsis, acute kidney injury and melanomas, use CT and MRI to diagnose cancers, and so much more. The horizons are expanding before us. In my own cancer centre we are using virtual reality to help patients understand what is happening to them. Yesterday, at the Bevan Commission international conference—I declare my interest as a commissioner—artificial intelligence was seen as key to reducing error but was not expected to replace clinical roles in the next 10 years.

The latest paper from the Bevan Commission stresses the need for social support and social change. This week, Vaughan Gething, the Minister in the Welsh Assembly, has announced plans for Wales to be the first “compassionate country”. Across society, we must all take responsibility. Loneliness is a killer.

We must recognise the unique value in each individual and harvest it, recognising that adverse childhood experiences result in poor physical and mental health in adulthood, and take responsibility. For these children, the most important factor in their future is a stable adult in their lives.

Social care prevents some problems and delays others. It does not substitute for, or replace, life-saving technology or highly complex interventions when we need them.

We need a huge shift in controlling data. Patients should be able to access all their data. The OpenNotes trial found that 99% of patients and 75% of doctors want to continue with open access.

Bevan said that we would be in a state of constant change, and we are. We must look forward. We must not carry on squeezing until the pips squeak, but we must value care, science and vocation in our staff, so that in 70 years’ time we can meet the greatest need without the threat of somehow having to find money to pay—perhaps even millions of pounds if it is life-saving.