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Towards a sustainable health and care system

April 5, 2017 8:31 PM
By Wendy Taylor

Cllr Wendy Taylor with Norman Lamb MPThere can be no doubt about the scale of the challenges facing health and social care services in England. 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, says Cllr Wendy Taylor (pictured with Liberal Democrat Health spokesman Norman Lamb MP).

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

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 Prime Minister's focus on mental health is welcome, but 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.

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.

Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said recently: "The emergency care system is on its knees, despite the huge efforts of staff who are struggling to cope with the intense demands being put upon them.

"The scale of the crisis affecting emergency care systems has reached new heights, as we predicted, mainly due to a lack of investment in both social and acute health care beds, as well as emergency department staffing."

More than 40% of hospitals had to declare an alert in the first week of January because they were experiencing major problems caused by having too many patients and too few spare beds.

Separate data suggests that almost every hospital in the UK is dangerously short of nurses.

And what is the Government's response - they blamed the GPs

Downing Street told GP surgeries in that if they refused to move to 8am-8pm opening, seven days a week, they would lose funding unless they could prove there was no demand from patients.

"Shamefully for this government, our NHS is one of the lowest funded health services compared with other European countries. We are short of thousands of GPs in this country.

"GPs have been under real pressure for some years, and spreading them more thinly across the week won't necessarily help. Evaluations show that uptake for weekend appointments is often not very high. The government needs to work with NHS professionals to find solutions that work."

The public is sick and tired of the NHS and care system being treated like a political football, so surely it is time for politicians to work together to solve solve the problems.

We should recognise the importance of confronting this challenge and 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 & we shouldn't seek to blame any particular government or political party. The 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, politicians have joined 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 our 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. 7 Labour, 7 Conservative & 7 LD MPs recently held a meeting with Teresa May to discuss this approach & she was at least willing to listen.

Those supporting the NHS & Care Convention include former Lib Dem Health minister Norman Lamb, Conservative former health minister Dan Poulter & Labour former shadow care minister Liz Kendall . It is also supported by four Select Committee Chairs - Sarah Wollaston (Health Committee), Meg Hillier (Public Accounts Committee), Clive Betts (Communities and Local Government Committee) and Frank Field (Work and Pensions Committee) - along with former Health Secretaries Stephen Dorrell and Alan Milburn.

In addition over 70 health and care organisations including Medical Royal Colleges, charities and trade unions are supporting the campaign & have urged the Prime Minister to initiate a cross party process.

Sp please don't let party politics ruin the chance of us funding a long term solution to the crisis facing health & social care,

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

There is a real urgency about this. The time to act is now, and we need the process completed within a clearly defined timescale.

So let's write to Jeremy Hunt to urge him to work with others to ensure a sustainable health & care system that we can all be proud of.