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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:57 am on 14th March 2017.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 10:57 am, 14th March 2017

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions to this thoughtful and reasoned debate. I do however need to challenge the Minister on his suggestion that there was strong support for the Budget measures. Let us not overplay it: there were buts in the speeches of nearly all hon. Members. Therefore, while those measures are a help, I think everyone agreed that they are not sufficient, because that is not long-term funding.

Let us be clear. We have had short-term funding though the better care fund, a recent announcement on money for GPs at A&E, the cash injection of £2 billion for social care front-loaded for the next financial year, and a precept increase of 2%. None of that is long-term sustainable funding. Let us also nail the issue of the £10 billion with which the NHS plan has been resourced. That has now been stretched by the Government over a six-year period, not five years—both my Committee and the Health Committee have highlighted that—while they continue to seek a 4% efficiency saving. It is not just the Select Committees saying that; the Comptroller and Auditor General said of the NHS accounts that there is not yet

“a coherent plan to close the gap between resources and patients’

Ministers really need to get a grip on that.

Will the Minister write to the Select Committee Chairs, outlining in more detail not just the timescale for the Green Paper’s publication but the proposed plans for discussions around that and when it will be taken further forward? Will he also write to us about the Care Act, phase 2, which has come up in the debate, albeit not mentioned directly? The permanent secretary at the Department of Health could not give an answer to our Committee. He talked about it being postponed, possibly to 2020. It would be helpful if the Minister would write to say what is happening with that element of the Care Act.

There is a strong view that there is a need for a long-term solution, and the Budget measures are not yet that. Health and social care are interconnected, and hospitals are not a great place for older people to be in. We need to ensure that we have a long-term sustainable solution to keep people out of hospital, keep them well as long as possible and keep them independent. That requires long-term thinking, not the sticking-plaster measures that we keep seeing unveiled by all Governments at the time of elections, especially in the light of cuts.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No.10(6)).