Sunday, 22 January 2017

Fair funding for NHS and social care

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian is on health and social care. It will be as follows:

The future of the National Health Service and the crisis in social care continues to dominate both British and Cornish politics – and rightly so.

Theresa May has come in for considerable criticism for some ill-advised comments, in which she attempted to downplay problems in the NHS.

Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, has slammed the Prime Minister for claiming that the health service “had been given more money than it asked for,” while many others condemned the UK Government for failing to live up to its pre-election pledge to “give the NHS what it needs.”

Anyone in Cornwall following the debate around the local NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) can see the hollowness of the PM’s claims, with the pressure to cut £264 million from the Cornish health service.

In addition, Mr Stevens also hit out at another statement from Mrs May that suggested elements of the present crisis had been “caused by the poor management of hospitals.”

Significantly, Dr Sarah Woolaston, who chairs the Health Select Committee, declined to support her own government for its attempts to blame GPs for pressures on accident & emergency departments, adding that it was unacceptable to scapegoat family doctors.

Conservative-run Surrey County Council has meanwhile announced plans to increase council tax by 15% to specifically fund social care – which will be presented to local voters in a referendum.

The council leader has laid the blame for the proposed tax hike at the door of central government cuts. He told the media that: “Government has cut our annual grant by £170m since 2010 – leaving a huge gap in our budget. Demand for adult social care, learning disabilities and children’s services is increasing every year. So … we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax."

All in all, it was a move which was embarrassing for the UK Government and particularly uncomfortable for a number of prominent Tories who represent Surrey constituencies, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

I was disappointed that opposition groups in Surrey did not use the opportunity to join the Conservative councillors in putting pressure on central government on this issue, but preferred to seek some local political advantage from impact of such a “huge” proposed council tax increase.

From my perspective, I share the view expressed in the editorial in last week’s Cornish Guardian, that a political consensus is needed to safeguard the NHS and to properly fund social care.

All political parties need to rise above their own short-term self-interest and come together to do what is in the best interests of local communities.

No comments: