Leaving the EU: Health and Social Care — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:14 am on 19th March 2019.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden SNP Whip 10:14 am, 19th March 2019

It is always a pleasure to see a fellow member of the Procedure Committee in the Chair, Mr Bone. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Brendan O’Hara for securing this debate and for the immense amount of work that he has put into his excellent European Union Withdrawal (Evaluation of Effects on Health and Social Care Sectors) Bill, which I wholeheartedly support.

I had not intended to mention stockpiling today but, like my hon. Friend Patricia Gibson, I was taken aback by how relaxed John Howell was about the issue. My wife has type 1 diabetes and relies on insulin to stay alive, so we in the Linden household are not quite as relaxed about the possibility of insulin shortages. I will leave that point with the Minister.

Despite what some might say, there is no good Brexit, and no deal is as good as the one we have now as members of a 28-strong bloc—I am pretty sure the Minister agrees with that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute said, our withdrawal from the European Union will have profound effects on the health and social care sectors. This morning I will focus my remarks solely on the impact of limiting free movement of people, and the disastrous consequences that that will have on the health and social care sector.

As Members of Parliament and leaders in our communities, we have a responsibility to be up front and enthusiastic about the benefits of immigration. If we are not, major challenges will come down the track, not just for our economy and public services, but especially for social care. For example, we know that the number of people with dementia is expected to increase by about 40% over the next 12 years, which could mean more people living in care homes. Who will provide that care?

It may be a harsh reality, but the vast majority of people with whom I went to school do not generally like the idea of working in care homes. Quite simply—I would have put this point to David Simpson, but he is no longer in his place—for many people of my generation, the idea of personal care, serving meals or feeding people is, sadly, not attractive. I wish to change that perception, but given the current economic climate, we must understand that young people are not moving towards caring as a career choice. The Government should work to tackle that, but it is a reality we must face. If we do not confront the reality of our ageing population, we will have serious difficulties with workforce planning and meeting the demographic challenges in the years to come.

I also wish to mention some concerns raised by charities that I am proud to work alongside, particularly Children’s Hospices Across Scotland, which does amazing work for children who have life-shortening or life-limiting conditions. Hon. Members will also be aware of the sterling campaign by CLIC Sargent on child cancer costs. We know that leaving the EU without a deal could lead to significant disruption to the economy in the short and medium term. CLIC Sargent has raised legitimate concerns that the impact of Brexit on the economy, and any associated increase in food, travel and energy costs, will lead to increased costs for young cancer patients and their families. When he responds to the debate, will the Minister outline what assessment has been made of the financial impact of leaving the European Union on young cancer patients, and what measures are being implemented to mitigate that?

I am concerned that Brexit will undermine our efforts to meet those profound social care challenges, which is why it is vital that the Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute receives Government support and is expedited through the House. He is right to say that the shambles of the private Members’ Bill process makes it likely that the Bill will die at the end of the week, but if the UK Government are serious about Brexit meaning Brexit, and about us making a success of it, they should support the Bill and ensure that we confront these challenges. If we ignore them, people will look back on us and say, “That was the Parliament that abdicated responsibility.” By taking part in this debate, I wish to place firmly on the record that I did my bit to make sure that we face up to those challenges.