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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:44 am on 19th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 10:44 am, 19th March 2019

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this morning, Mr Bone. I will start by addressing the remark by Julie Cooper. She should know that the whole of the Department of Health and Social Care, and indeed the whole of the Government, are absolutely committed to ensuring that there are in place detailed plans, which I hope I will be able to outline and reassure hon. Members about, to ensure that in any post-Brexit scenario the health and social care of our country’s citizens is our top priority.

I thank Brendan O'Hara for securing the debate and commend him for his private Member’s Bill. He will know that the Government do not support his Bill—although we support the spirit of it—in part because, as the contribution from the SNP Front Bench showed, it is unnecessary. He is arguing for an independent evaluation and careful analysis of Brexit, but I thought the contribution from Dr Cameron, frequently citing the Health and Social Care Committee, proved that there is a huge amount of independent evaluation, accountability and scrutiny of the plans.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute raised a number of questions. I have with me a prepared speech, but I am not sure I will get on to it, because I want to address as fully as I can some of the concerns that hon. Members have raised. He raised a number of concerns about the social care sector, and he is right to do so. Brexit or no Brexit, it is a fragile sector and any event could hinder care provision. That is why, in the light of Brexit, we are working with the sector and local authorities to ensure that we have contingency plans in place.

I will speak more, if I have time, about what we have done regarding EU nationals in the short term, but I want to stress, as the hon. Member for Burnley did, my thanks to all EU nationals who work in either the healthcare system or the social care system. They play a crucial role in delivering high-quality health and social care, and we all recognise that. It is a fact, of course, that the number of EU nationals in adult social care has increased each year, from about 5% in 2012-13 to 8% in 2017-18, but that is no reason to be complacent. That is why we have put in mitigations regarding the EU settlement scheme and are implementing long-term policies to deliver the workforce and address the supply-demand gap that exists.

The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute will of course have noticed the recent recruitment plan, Every Day is Different, which started only last month. As he challenged me directly on this, I can say that we are currently in discussions with the Home Office about the salary threshold for social care.

My hon. Friend John Howell spoke eloquently, as he always does—I have heard him speak in several of these debates—about Henley and other matters. He challenged me to visit Henley, which I would be delighted to do—perhaps on a Friday in July, when other events are on as well.

Patricia Gibson asked a number of questions. I made this clear at the start of my speech, and I will make it clear again directly to her: we value all the professionals who work in the national health service and the social care sector. We are putting plans in place, both short term and long term, to ensure that our words are followed by actions and there is practical support, and to ensure that people know how much they are valued. I heard her charge of arrogance, but she might like to reflect on the fact that some might consider it arrogant to suggest in any way that this Government are not putting in place all the necessary preparations to protect the NHS.