Norman Lamb leads calls for National Convention to resolve NHS funding crisis

Norman Lamb has co-ordinateda cross-party group of MPs to call for a national convention on health and care to resolve the crisis in NHS funding.

Norman said:

The health and social care system in England is facing unprecedented challenges. Failing to find a solution to this crisis puts some of the most vulnerable people at risk – frail and elderly people in need of care services, disabled people who need support and people with long-term illnesses, particularly those suffering from mental ill health.

Building a sustainable health and care system that can provide high-quality care can’t be realised without putting aside party political point-scoring.

The public is sick and tired of the NHS and care system being treated like a political football.  People have had enough, and are crying out for an honest discussion and bold solutions to these challenges.

It speaks volumes that so many Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum are backing this initiative.  At Prime Minister’s Questions, I will urge Theresa May to recognise the gravity of the situation we are facing, and to agree to meet with us to listen to our proposal.

Norman has persuaded an illustrious group of MPs and former health secretaries to back his call. They include the  Conservative former health minister Dan Poulter MP and Labour former shadow care minister Liz Kendall MP. It is also supported by four Select Committee Chairs – Sarah Wollaston MP (Health Committee), Meg Hillier MP (Public Accounts Committee), Clive Betts MP (Communities and Local Government Committee) and Frank Field (Work and Pensions Committee) – along with former Health Secretaries Stephen Dorrell and Alan Milburn.

The full statement says:

There is now a widespread recognition that the NHS and the social care system are under unsustainable strain, and that the pressures on the system are increasing and we will see failures of care. The consequences of this for many highly vulnerable people are very serious. We note that it is estimated that over a million older people in need of social care are not getting the care or support they need.
We welcome the Prime Minister’s focus on mental health, but also recognise that we will never achieve genuine equal treatment for those with mental ill health for so long as the whole system is under such financial pressure.

We are also concerned about the impact that these pressures are placing on staff in the NHS and the care system.

We recognise the importance of confronting this challenge and we accept that this transcends narrow party politics. A system designed to meet the needs of the population of this country in the 1940s is in need of renewal. It is not our intention to seek to blame any particular government or political party.  Our aim is to find a sustainable solution that will have genuine cross-party support for the future.

In recognition of the scale of these challenges, we join together to launch a campaign to encourage the Government to establish a cross-party NHS and Care Convention to examine the future funding requirements of these cherished services and agree a new, long-term settlement to guarantee their sustainability for future generations and to ensure that this country has one of the best health and care systems in the world.

Now is the time for the Government to start a national conversation involving the public, civic society, healthcare professionals, carers and other experts.

We are pleased to note the call from over 70 health and care organisations including Medical Royal Colleges, charities and trade unions for the Prime Minister to initiate a cross party process.
There is a real urgency about this. The time to act is now, and we need the process completed within a clearly defined timescale.

Vulnerable people will be at risk if we do not confront this growing crisis, and we urge the Government to take immediate action in the interests of the country.

Norman Lamb MP
Dan Poulter MP
Liz Kendall MP
Sarah Wollaston MP
Meg Hillier MP
Clive Betts MP
Frank Field MP
Nick Clegg MP
Andrew Murrison MP
Caroline Flint MP
Chuka Umunna MP
Jeremy Lefroy MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Tom Brake MP
Heidi Allen MP
Sarah Olney MP
Peter Bone MP
Greg Mulholland MP
Johnny Mercer MP TBC
Ivan Lewis MP
Mark Williams MP
John Pugh MP

Alan Milburn, former Health Secretary
Stephen Dorrell, former Health Secretary

There is also a petition that the public are invited to sign. If you agree, please share far and wide. The text says:

Theresa May: Seek an urgent cross-party solution to the health and care crisis

There can be no doubt about the scale of the challenges facing health and social care services in England. We need a cross-party approach to achieve a long-term solution to ensure millions of older, ill and disabled people can get the high-quality care they need and deserve. The time to act is now.

Barely a day goes by without news of immediate problems – service reductions, missed targets – and warnings of future failings. 2017 simply cannot be another year where these huge issues are ducked.

While the Government has taken some short term steps to try and relieve the pressures on the NHS and local authorities, without more fundamental action, these challenges will accelerate as our population increases and ages.

The strains were clear when my husband was in hospital between September and November and that was a) before Winter begun and b) in Scotland where things are supposed to be better.

Don’t get me wrong, the care he received was excellent and life-saving and we are incredibly grateful that the NHS was there for him when he needed it, but we could see that it was already operating at close to full capacity. Staffing levels were simply not sufficient. The ward was constantly struggling with being short-staffed. There was one afternoon when I met one member of staff who had been on night shift the night before, had grabbed a couple of hours’ sleep and was back on duty. In 51 days, I once saw a nurse going home on time. And when you think that they are doing 12.5 hour shifts, that is a big deal.

Staff seemed under constant pressure, working flat out all the time. It is simply not sustainable to put that amount of pressure on people.

They had to “make do and mend” with a lot of things. There was one particular thing that my husband needed, 6 times a day, that supposedly could only be done by nurse practitioners. At nights and weekends, there was only one on duty to cover the whole hospital, so they had to come up with, shall we say, a sub-optimal solution which was more stressful for everyone than it should have been.

We saw things that worried us but this is nothing compared to the current A and E crisis in England. Current figures in Scotland show that 92.3% of patients are being seen within 4 hours. This is below the target, but much better than south of the border.

The reports of very ill patients waiting for hours on trolleys, of resus rooms being overcrowded with the most seriously ill patients are worse than I can remember during the Thatcher years. And all Jeremy Hunt can do is blame the public. If you can’t get a GP appointment, or even a consultation at a community pharmacy, where else are you supposed to go? If you can’t get treatment for mental ill health, where else are you supposed to go? A and E is the focal point of so many of the  stresses across the NHS.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings