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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:30 am on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 10:30 am, 14th March 2017

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, Mr Bailey, once again with you in the Chair. I will keep my remarks brief to allow the required summing up to take place.

I pay tribute to Meg Hillier for securing the debate, and I congratulate her on her speech. She highlighted the issues very well and was right to focus on the shift from capital to resource: £940 million this year, the third year in a row of such a shift in NHS England.

This has been another good debate on the subject. Only three weeks ago, I summed up for the Scottish National party in a social care debate. Alan Johnson said in that debate—I agreed with him—that social care was the greatest domestic policy challenge facing the UK Government. Some revisions to what was said in that debate are required, however, as a result of the Chancellor’s Budget statement. It was welcome that he chose to spend £2 billion on health and social care in England, but it was a mistake for him to stagger it over three years. That is simply not enough.

We welcome the Barnett consequentials that go to the Scottish Government as a result of the social care enhancement—£99 million in 2017-18, £66 million in 2018-19 and £33 million in 2019-20. I am sure that those funds will be used by the Scottish Government to continue investing in the new health and social care joint boards which have been legislated for and recently established. The joint boards are local authorities and health boards working together to overcome the challenges of bed blocking, delayed discharge, domestic adaptations and care packages.

One of the most frustrating cases that we all deal with as MPs is delays to domestic adaptations, which are frustrating for the family, the recovery time and the flow through the healthcare system. I used to deal with dozens of those as an MP and previously as a parliamentary assistant. Thankfully, they are now becoming fewer and further apart. I am not saying that there are no challenges in Scotland—of course there are—but north of the border we are in a very different place from what we see in England.

Over the past two years, as we have started to integrate health and social care and invested record levels in our NHS in Scotland, Scotland’s core A&Es have been the best performing in the UK. On 5 February this year, in a report comparing UK health services, the BBC stated:

“Out of all the four nations, hospitals in Scotland seem to have fared the best...Much of the credit has been given to the way councils and the health service are working together.”

According to the most recent figures, the four-hour A&E waiting time target is being hit in 92% of cases in Scotland, 79% in England, 76% in Northern Ireland and 65% in Wales. Taken with other initiatives and investments, standard delayed discharge of more than two weeks has dropped by 43% in Scotland.

In the Scottish Government’s 2016-17 draft budget, we have allocated a further £250 million to health and social care partnerships to protect and grow social care services and to deliver our shared priorities, including paying the real living wage to adult care workers. In spite of the cuts to Scotland’s budget, the SNP has increased funding for adult social care. As a result, the average time received for home care is 11.3 hours a week, compared with 5.6 hours a week in 2000. Again, I am by no means saying that things are perfect in Scotland, but we faced up to the social care challenge long before it became the crisis we see south of the border. I hope that the UK Government can look to the Government up the road for inspiration as they face up to their own serious domestic policy challenges in England.