Many constituents have contacted me raising concerns regarding the Health and Care Bill which is currently making its way through Parliament. I have set out my thoughts below on why I support the bill, not only as an MP, but also as a GP.
You can watch my short speech in July’s debate summarising the importance of the bill and my further suggestions here.
I believe it is important to emphasise that, this was a plan brought forward by the NHS, for the NHS.
NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens said when I asked him directly about what surprised him the most about the NHS white paper:
“We’ve been working so closely for a number of years now with colleagues across the health service and our broader partners, so genuinely I think this is unusual – if not unique – in terms of having come from the NHS as a series of asks to parliament rather than something parliament is imposing on the NHS.”
Sir Simon Stevens – Health and Social Care Committee – 9 March 2021
You can see the exchange here about the White Paper (it is only 2 minutes long): https://www.drlukeevans.org.uk/news/question-health-select-committee-social-care-white-paper
You can also read our recommendations from the Health Select Committee here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1068/departments-white-paper-on-health-and-social-care/.
This plan is designed, therefore, from the bottom up, and serves as a framework to join the NHS and social care together. We need joined up, integrated care between the NHS, Local Government and other partners including the voluntary and community sector, which will be vital in tackling the factors that affect the long-term sustainability of patient services. This is what the NHS is asking for.
We often hear scaremongering from political opponents about privatisation, and yet one of the biggest asks of the NHS is to have better GP access and more GPs, who are in essence private providers! Therefore the nuance of what actually goes on in the NHS is lost.
The biggest, and fundamental principle at the heart of the NHS is: the NHS is based on clinical need, not ability to pay – which is imperative, we (society, government and the NHS) have to find a way to future proof this principle with the ever advancing improvements in research, treatments and interventions.
I believe Sir Simon’s response demonstrates that those in charge of the NHS are committed to evolving our health service using its founding principles and the ideas within this Bill have been raised. In my view, this bill does not represent a third party strategic intervention without evidence into our critically nationally important NHS, but more an opportunity to bring in the knowledge and intelligence that Government and the NHS are seeing to ensure a Service fit for the challenges that we face going forward. Any suggestion for change should not be immediately cancelled before due consideration is made of the ideas.
Turning to the specifics of the Bill and the issues that have been raised with me by constituents:
- The NHS will always be free at the point of use, and any proposed reforms aim to continue to improve the quality of these services and patient outcomes. For third parties to suggest otherwise is unhelpful at best, scaremongering at worst.
- It is further irresponsible scaremongering to suggest that ICSs are being used to support privatisation, or cuts to NHS funding. Ensuring every part of England is covered by an ICS is a key way of promoting local collaboration.
- I welcome the intention to develop more joined up, integrated care between the NHS, Local Government and other partners including the voluntary and community sector, which will be vital in tackling the factors that affect the long-term sustainability of patient services.
- The Bill will make permanent some of the innovations we have seen as a result of the pandemic.
- The Government has offered a clear commitment to supporting the NHS and our wider healthcare system. The Government will provide the NHS with £33.9 billion in funding by 2023/24, which is the largest, longest funding settlement in the history of the NHS, and is confirmed in law by the NHS Funding Act. In addition, the NHS Long Term Plan commits £4.5 billion in primary and community care to help strengthen local healthcare networks.
- The Bill includes proposals to give local people, local clinicians and NHS organisations more control over the way health and care services are delivered, while also providing proper accountability mechanisms.
- The reforms set out in the Bill are vital to help our NHS build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. Those in the system are telling Ministers that they are ready to implement the reforms and there should be no delay. Now is the right time to proceed.
- NHS managers have played a vital role throughout this pandemic. I am pleased that Chris Hopson of NHS providers, which represents NHS managers, agrees with these reforms that will end the “unnecessarily rigid NHS approach to procurement”. It is also welcome that this White Paper enacts the recommendations of the 2019 Kark Review for stronger measures to ensure that NHS senior managers have the right skills, behaviours and competencies.
Finally, I wholeheartedly support the Government's commitment to recruit 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 new GPs, and 6,000 more primary care professionals in addition to the 7,500 further nurse associates and 20,000 primary care professionals announced previously. These commitments are vital to ensuring our NHS is fit for the long term. Further, the NHS Long Term Plan focuses on retaining staff by ensuring that they are well supported and able to develop their own careers; this ethos will underpin all planning for the NHS workforce.
Of course, I am not naïve to think that this Bill or indeed the promise of extra staff is going to solve all the NHS problems. I am pleased I was able to get the Health Select Committee to look into NHS workforce burnout, you can read the report here: Workforce burnout and resilience in the NHS and social care - Committees - UK Parliament
Please get back in touch if you wish to discuss this Bill in further depth, or any other issues but I hope that this stance gives you the necessary reassurance that from my analysis, this Bill represents a positive development for the NHS, rather than a piece of legislation to be treated with trepidation.