I congratulate Meg Hillier on securing this debate and thank you, Mr Bailey, for making sure that we all get a chance to participate. As my party’s health spokesperson, this is an issue that I long considered in the run-up to the Budget, hoping and praying that there would be funding for drugs such as Orkambi for cystic fibrosis sufferers, money available for the training of additional GPs and more cancer drug funding. The list is exhaustive—we all have a long list of things—but I want to mention three issues in the short time that I have.
Together for Short Lives provided me with a briefing full of information for this debate. It is clear that local authority funding for children’s palliative care charities does not reflect the level of social care provided by such organisations. In the spring Budget, the Government announced a further £2 billion for adult social care funding over the next three years.
Given the vital role that these charities play in delivering children’s social care, including short breaks, what guidance will the Government give local authorities to make sure that they provide financial support to those organisations? Will the Government use the forthcoming Green Paper on social care funding to consider evidence and proposals for increasing funding for children’s social care? The care costs for children’s palliative care rose by 10% in the last year, due to an increase in the number of children with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and the increasing complexity of their needs and the care that they require.
As a member of the all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer, I am aware of the inquiry into blood cancer care that is being launched on Wednesday. Blood cancer, as the Minister knows, is the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the third biggest cancer killer, yet awareness among the general public and policy audiences is very low. I trust that the Minister will look at that report. It is important that we consider reports, because we want the willingness to act on them. I respectfully ask the Minister to consider that.
My third point is about multiple sclerosis. Some 100,000 people in the UK have MS—4,500 of those in Northern Ireland. Great research has been done by Queen’s University Belfast to revolutionise life for people with MS. They are trying to find a way forward, looking at how the damaged brain repairs itself. The research is good stuff. I remind Members of the importance of ensuring that funding is available for research into diseases. I believe the Department must step up and make sure that that happens.
I know that there is not an unending supply of funding, but I believe that it is necessary that the money is used in the most productive way. I am subsequently asking that consideration be given to the issues that I and others have raised this morning. My mother often said, “Your health is your wealth,” and that is very much the truth. We must do all we can to protect the real wealth of this nation, and make sure that help is available to those who need it most at the time they need it.