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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:11 am on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health) 10:11 am, 14th March 2017

The consensus in this room on the scale of the challenge that we face strikes me as remarkable. The £1 billion for social care this coming year is welcome, but against the £2 billion gap identified by the Health Foundation, the real risk is that this will result in more older people ending up unnecessarily in hospital because care fails at home, which puts more pressure on the NHS. In the following financial year, 2018-19, real-terms spending per head on the NHS will start to fall. That is a remarkable statistic. At a time when demand is rising rapidly, that makes no sense to anyone, wherever they are on the political spectrum. I want to touch on the human consequences of that.

Across the country families with children who have significant mental health problems routinely wait months for treatment. They suffer enormous anxiety. A man in my constituency was told he had a two-year wait for the adult ADHD clinic. Routinely across the country we are breaching the referral to treatment standard on cancer care. There is now an awful insidious trend whereby anyone who has money—we cannot blame people for this—is minded to opt out and fast-track treatment privately. Families faced with long delays do what they can for their loved ones, but do any of us really want to live in a country where timely access to treatment and potentially survival depends on whether we can pay for it? That is where we are heading.

No party has come up with a full solution to the crisis facing our NHS and care system. We have to be honest about that. Collectively, we are letting down the people of this country. It is remarkable how many speakers today have called for the Government to embrace a cross-party process. A load of MPs—senior MPs, Select Committee Chairs and former Ministers—have come together to call on the Prime Minister to establish an NHS and care convention to engage with the public in the mature discussion that we know we need to have but keep putting off. So I call on the Minister to support us within government, be audacious and recognise that this is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge. The Government will get credit for working with others to achieve the solution that this country badly needs.