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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:26 am on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 10:26 am, 14th March 2017

I congratulate my hon. Friend Meg Hillier on securing this important debate.

On 4 March, just over a week ago, a quarter of a million people marched through central London to call on the Government to stop the cuts and the privatisation of the national health service. I pay tribute to each and every one of those people who came to London to make that protest to the Government. When a quarter of a million people assemble directly outside this Parliament, the Government should think about what they are asking for. People value the NHS highly and are prepared to fight for it.

Many of the problems that we are facing in the health service have their roots in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. I hope that in any cross-party discussion, where we say that everything will be on the table, repeal of the 2012 Act will be on the table for consideration. One of the very many changes it introduced was the removal of the requirement to provide a comprehensive health service in England. As a result, we are seeing increasing rationing, and patients are suffering as a result.

My hon. Friend Rachael Maskell made an excellent speech in the Adjournment debate she recently secured on the rationing of surgery. As a former physiotherapist, she is very well-placed to make those points. Earlier this year, three clinical commissioning groups in the west midlands produced proposals to reduce the number of people qualifying for hip replacements by 12% and for knee replacements by 19%. Clearly, that has nothing to do with addressing patient need; it is all about balancing the books on the part of a Government with an austerity agenda that they are wedded to. Thousands of elderly people in our country are losing their sight, due to the rationing of cataract operations. That kind of rationing has a real and painful cost to many people in our society.

We are seeing the emergence of a postcode lottery. People are being told that we cannot afford a comprehensive service any more, but that needs to be challenged. Ministers will cite the ageing population and the costs of technology. Well, technology can reduce the costs of care; treating somebody sooner for a cataract operation— a relatively cheap operation—is a much more efficient way of using money than letting somebody become blind and hence terribly dependent on social care.

The coalition cut £4.6 billion from social care. The £2 billion over three years that the Government are providing is nowhere near enough. We want an injection of £2 billion now to stabilise the social care system. The public will not stand for it, and they will not forgive or forget a Tory Government who take the national health service off them. Ministers might think that they can erode it by trimming a little bit here and a little bit there—[Interruption.] But the public know what is going on. Those who have hospitals that are going to close understand what I am talking about. People will not stand for it: they will march again, and it will not be—[Interruption.]