Call for cross-party Care Convention

November 21, 2017 11:37 AM
By Morwen Millson

Local Councillor and former Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Horsham, Morwen Millson, has welcomed a proposal for a National Health Service Care Convention to be set up.

Morwen says:

"The NHS and Social Care are completely inter-dependent and they should be looked at together. Social Care includes support for frail older people (in their own homes and in care homes), support for adults of any age with additional needs (including learning, physical and sensory disabilities), as well as preventative services aiming to reduce the number of emergency hospital admissions, and rehabilitation services for people leaving hospital.

Former Health minister, Norman Lamb MP has organised a cross-party group of 90 MPs, including select committee chairs and former cabinet ministers and shadow cabinet ministers, to write to the prime minister. Their letter urges the Government to establish an NHS and Care Convention to find a sustainable long-term settlement for these services.

Norman Lamb and Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, first joined forces last February, when a group of Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem MPs met the Prime Minister to discuss plans to address the crisis in Health and Social Care. Mrs May agreed to discuss the proposal with her advisors. However, the plans were interrupted by the General Election and no further progress has been made.

Since then, there have been further reports of patients and older people being let down by longer waiting times for treatment, unmet care needs, and pressure on mental health budgets, while the Care Quality Commission recently warned that the health and care system is "straining at the seams". There are also significant issues with the South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAMB), with a man reportedly waiting for almost four hours for an ambulance after a fall in West Street in Horsham last week.

Norman Lamb, who is the Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk and Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:

"This letter shows the strength of cross-party support for a new approach based on co-operation instead of political point-scoring. The fact that so many senior MPs and former cabinet ministers support this initiative is remarkable. Now the Government must act on it."

Morwen Millson said:

"A recent Local Government Association budget submission illustrated the strain on council budgets resulting from the rising demand for adult social care and children's services. For every £1 of council tax collected by councils in 2019/20, the LGA forecasts 56p could be spent on caring for the elderly, vulnerable adults and children. This is up from 41p in 2010/11.

"As a result of pressures on adult social care from an aging population, and children's services from family breakdown, funding for other vital services is under increasing pressure. For example, by 2020 just 6p in every £1 of council tax could be spent on collecting bins and recycling, with 5p in every £1 on improving roads and street-lighting, 2p on bus services and just over 1p on trading standards, licensing and food safety.

"Most people recognise that these services and others are vital to the well-being and quality of life of local communities.

"Councils of all political persuasions would welcome a new direction from Government to help them deal with the crisis in funding resulting from these pressures. No-one stands for election with the intention of providing worse services, but that is what is happening in many areas, with roads and pavements continuing to deteriorate across the country. Worse still, the services being provided for vulnerable people - in West Sussex and elsewhere - may not be those they would choose, but what is available at short notice, when they are ready to be discharged from hospital."

West Sussex County Council, and the District and Borough Councils, are now preparing next year's council budgets for budget meetings in February, which will set the Council Tax from next April. Horsham District Council has already announced that our 'rubbish' bins will only be emptied every two weeks, in its efforts to save money, and last week's WSCT carried a number of letters showing the importance of bin collections to readers of the paper!

West Sussex has announced a budget gap of £24 million next year, taking into account additional costs in Adults' and Children's Services. This will have to be closed with savings in other areas including Highways Maintenance and bus services.

Morwen added, "Liberal Democrats on the County Council will scrutinise all budget proposals carefully and will try to ensure that the services most valued by local people are protected as far as possible from cuts."