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Health and Social Care Budgets — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:54 am on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Labour, Bristol South 9:54 am, 14th March 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bailey, and also to serve on the Public Accounts Committee.

Whatever the right level of funding is, there must be agreement on what that is and, crucially, on what it can provide. In our Select Committee sittings over the past year, we have come to the conclusion that the promised programme cannot be delivered with the money available. Via the NHS mandate, which sets out each year what is expected, we know what the NHS is set to provide and what money is available. However, today is 14 March and we have not really had sight of what is mandated for next year.

The mandate is a requirement of the Health and Social Care Act 2012; it sets the direction for the NHS, helps to ensure accountability to Parliament and, crucially, sets objectives. We know from this year’s mandate that the indicative budget from April is £109,853,000 and the capital is £310 million, but it would be useful to hear from the Minister today when we can expect to see next year’s mandate.

The second crucial document in this debate is the NHS constitution, which we do not talk about enough. The constitution sets out the rights to which patients, the public and staff are entitled, including consultant-led care within 18 weeks of a referral from a GP and a specialist referral from a GP for urgent cases when it comes to suspected cancer. It sets out pledges and people’s responsibilities.

I agree that we need to involve the public much more in this debate. Waiting times will, I think, quickly start to increase. We have already seen today information from the King’s Fund on what is happening with hip operations. We will, invariably, go back to the days of the 1990s, with longer lists. Access to GPs and other professionals will continue to decrease and, largely, we will start to depend more on families and local care—not just for social care, but because of the consequences of not having well-accessed healthcare. Staff will become more demoralised and we know that morale is crucial for patient safety.

What I want to hear from the Government today, therefore, is how we are going to include the public in the trade-offs that are now necessary with the sustainability and transformation plans in local communities. How will that be done? Will Parliament start to debate the erosion of the NHS constitution and the rights that people have come to expect? Crucially, will the Minister say when—within the next two and a half weeks—we will see the mandate, so that we will know what funds are available and what they are set out to do?