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NHS Reorganisation — [Mike Gapes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 12th December 2018.

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Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South 2:30 pm, 12th December 2018

Thank you, Mr Gapes. I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I agree with him to some extent, but I think his microphone was not working, and it was very difficult to hear what he was saying. That needs to be looked at.

The Warrington and Cheshire STP is completely unworkable. It has the second largest footprint of the 44 STPs, covering 2.5 million people, 12 CCGs and 20 NHS provider organisations. There are so many bodies involved that the STP has been almost impossible to co-ordinate. It required £755 million in capital funding to be deliverable. Against a backdrop of cuts to NHS capital budgets it is unsurprising that the STP has made little progress.

Integrated care providers represent the latest iteration of the changes. Although ICPs could drastically change health and social care provision if adopted, their implementation is taking place without a vote or a debate. The details setting out what an ICP will do were published during the summer recess, with very little publicity. An ICP can be awarded a contract to deliver a general practice for up to 10 years. Significantly, these contracts can also be awarded to private companies. One of the criteria used to assess bids will be

“whether they are able to deliver value for money,” moving away from an emphasis on quality and choice. Does the Minister believe that these changes should be made without parliamentary consent?

Mr Gapes, forgive me for using these confusing and seemingly never-ending abbreviations. The communication of the changes has been another major flaw in the process. Indeed, I echo the criticisms in the seventh report of the Health and Social Care Committee, published earlier this year, which noted:

“Understanding of these changes has been hampered by poor communication and a confusing acronym spaghetti of changing titles and terminology, poorly understood even by those working within the system. This has fuelled a climate of suspicion about the underlying purpose of the proposals and missed opportunities to build goodwill for the co-design of local systems that work more effectively in the best interests of those who depend on services.”

This unnecessary use of abbreviations and complex terminology has shut out the public and excluded them from the debate over the future of the NHS. The Government have a clear a responsibility to make the debate around NHS reorganisation far more accountable and accessible to the public.

Moving on to health and social care integration, there is broad consensus that if the NHS is to maintain levels of service provision while making the efficiency gains demanded of it, the integration of services across health and social care is vital. Demands on the NHS are becoming increasingly complex, and long-term integrated care has the potential to transform the lives of millions of patients, as well as improving the patient experience. It has huge potential to save money by cutting down on costly emergency hospital admissions and delayed discharges. However, a recent report on health and social care funding by the Institute of Fiscal Studies revealed:

“Social care is facing high growth in demand pressures, which are projected to rise by around £18 billion by 2033-34, at an annual rate of 3.9%.”

This is not something that can be done on the cheap.

For patients, the lack of integration of health and social care can be a maddening experience. I am sure many Members have heard complaints from constituents about having to constantly repeat their story to any number of different health and social care professionals. In my constituency, a community-led healthcare non-governmental organisation passed on the following patient comment, which sums up the problem well:

“When I get on a plane, there is a lounge, passport control, security, air traffic controllers—lots of separate organisations. But what I experience is a trip from A to B. In health and social care what most people experience is A to Z, B to Z etc. having to repeat their stories each time.”

This confusion is the outcome to be expected from the unnecessary complexity and fragmentation that has characterised NHS reorganisation for several years. The fear is that the next NHS reorganisation will not take into account or optimise the 80% of individuals’ wellbeing impacted by the wider determinants of health—housing, employment and connectedness to the local community.

In my constituency, Warrington Together offers a potential way forward as a locally appropriate, collaborative model of care. Its rationale is a return to the principles of the NHS when it was established in 1948: a single taxpayer-funded organisation working to a single integrated plan; promoting healthy lifestyles; utilising doctors and hospitals, as well as community care, social care and mental healthcare; and striving to keep an entire population well in the most efficient way possible, with enhanced stewardship by those who are locally democratically elected.

Warrington Together offers the opportunity to stimulate a social movement to ensure that changes to healthcare are more accountable to the local population. It has established a third sector health and social care alliance, which is an umbrella group made up of 12 local voluntary health and care providers, who can act with one voice and be contracted as a single entity. That will enable a broad range of providers to come together, offering such diverse care as housing and home repairs, mental health support, and links to local leisure and cultural opportunities. While that is not without its challenges, it represents something we should try to achieve on a national scale: involving local stakeholders to provide integrated health and social care services.

My last topic is healthcare infrastructure. NHS reorganisations need to be informed by infrastructure needs. Buildings need to be more efficient and cost-effective. It is estimated that one third of GP surgeries are conversions of former Victorian terraces, 1960s bungalows or former offices. They are often unfit for purpose and cause significant waste. Innovative and modern infrastructure helps to reduce energy and utilities costs to our NHS, while also protecting our environment. The less money we spend on the maintenance of outdated NHS infrastructure, the more money we can spend on long-term care.

I have a number of questions for the Minister to answer. How can he justify the creation of ICPs without a parliamentary vote or debate? Does he acknowledge that ICPs are moving away from an emphasis on quality and choice by allowing bids to be assessed based on whether they are able to deliver value for money? How can he explain the Government’s decision to keep accountable, elected local officials out of the NHS’s decision-making process? Without accountability to local democracy, how can he ensure that health and social care systems are relevant to the people and places they are intended to serve? Will he now acknowledge that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has been a disaster for the NHS, creating a fragmented and overcomplicated system that fails to meet patients’ needs?

The 2012 reforms have been likened by one commentator to

“a football team reorganised in such a way that the defenders, midfielders and forwards have to contract formally with one another for a certain number of tackles, saves, passes and goals, according to a general plan laid out by the manager, even though all the money comes from the same source: the club, and ultimately the fans. To make things more complicated, on match days, fans are encouraged to swap their tickets for another game, at another stadium, with other teams.”

Is that not an effective summary of these reforms? Finally, does the Minister agree that the unnecessary use of abbreviations and complex terminology has functioned to shut out the public and exclude them from the debate over the future of the NHS?