Kevin Barron on National Health Service Opposition Day — [14th Allotted Day] 21/01/15

Posted below the complete address and responses from Kevin Barron on the state of the NHS.  Complete session here

Hope Kevin’s mother is fully recovered from her stay in hospital and well and settled at home now.

Kevin Barron (Rother Valley, Labour)

It is a pleasure to speak in the debate, and to follow Chloe Smith.

My hon. Friend Ian Austin mentioned private health insurance. In America, 80% of the population have great health care through private health insurance, but for the many people who cannot afford any private health insurance and rely on charity, it degrades very steeply. My parents used to have to rely on charity in the 1930s in this country. If any so-called political party is talking about returning to health insurance, I have to say that people will get what they can afford and the bulk of people will get very little. What Nigel Farage said the other day was completely consistent with UKIP’s 2010 manifesto— I have a copy of it.

I want to talk briefly about the pressures on accident and emergency. It is no coincidence that when the economy is being run more “efficiently”, as I think the hon. Member for Norwich North put it, through cuts and austerity, there will be an effect on services. Figures from an Age UK report that came out this week show that despite rising demand from growing numbers of people in need of support, the amount spent on social care services for older people has fallen nationally by £1.1 billion, or 14.4%, since 2011, even accounting for additional funding from the NHS, and by a total of £1.4 billion, or 17.7%, since 2005-06. That is quite a large cut.

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, between 2010-11 and 2013, the number of older people receiving home care fell by 31%, from 542,000 to 370,000; the number of day care places plummeted by 66.9%, from 178,000 to 59,000; and the number of older people receiving vital equipment and adaptations to help them remain safely at home dropped by 41.6%. This is the austerity that the people on the Government Benches say our economy needs.

rose—Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth, Conservative)

In a few minutes—let me get to my third page, and I will gladly give way.

Spending on home care has dropped since 2011 by 19.4%, from £2.2 billion to £1.8 billion, while the amount spent on day care has fallen even more dramatically, by 30%, from £378 million to £264 million.

I read the Age UK report with great interest, but the data, which the hon. Gentleman has cited, is aggregated information from across England. Not all local authorities are cutting social care. Some really good local authorities are coping with the reductions in funding from central Government, prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable people in their communities and finding innovative ways of working with the NHS and the voluntary sector to improve the self-reported well-being of the people they serve. It is not the blanket situation across the UK that he describes.

That is not a denial that the figures are true. They are true. These are the facts and figures of what austerity under this Government has introduced to local government and social care.

The cuts have happened at the same time as the number of people aged 65 and over has increased by 1.2 million. Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said:

“This devastating scorecard speaks for itself and it lays bare the fact that our state funded social care system is in calamitous, quite rapid decline. Today, many hospitals are finding it hard to discharge older people and commentators are asking why this challenge seems to be growing, year on year. A big part of the explanation is revealed by this scorecard: the marked decline in central government funding for social care and the resultant reduction in support for older people to live independently at home – this at the same time as their numbers are rising.”

She continued:

“Until recently the impact of the decline in social care has been relatively hidden, but social care is a crucial pressure valve for the NHS and the evidence of what happens when it is too weak to fulfil that function is clear for us all to see.”

She maps that out pretty well.

Councillor Izzi Seccombe, of the Local Government Association, said the system was “chronically underfunded”. She said:

“Councils have protected our most vulnerable people as far as possible, often at the expense of other services, and we will continue to prioritise those most in need.”

She continued:

“However, the combined pressures of insufficient funding, growing demand, escalating costs and a 40% cut to local government budgets across this parliament mean that despite councils’ best efforts they are having to make tough decisions about the care services they can provide.”

This councillor is the Conservative leader of Warwickshire county council—not somebody from an urban area but a Conservative who knows exactly what austerity is creating in Warwickshire, and probably elsewhere as well.

On 7 January, following an urgent question on A and E and major incidents, I raised in the House an issue about an elderly member of my family. In response to my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham and me, theSecretary of State mentioned the better care programme but said little else about the problems facing people in hospital. That member of my family was actually my mother, who was in Rotherham hospital, having been admitted to A and E on 9 December. Two days later, she was told she could go home, as there was no medical need for her to be there. She spent her 93rd birthday in Rotherham hospital on 24 December and was discharged on 5 January—with no medical reason to be in that hospital all the time from 11 December until then.

I have since checked the reductions in my local authority’s adult services budget. This year thus far, the reduction has been over 6%. Over the last full financial year, the reduction was over 8% and previously 4% and 3%. That has a cumulative effect on people’s ability to be looked after in the community. People stand at that Dispatch Box or anywhere else talking about “the need for austerity”, well that shows the price of that austerity. My mum is good; she is back at home with a good care package, and she is fine. She wants to continue on her own as much as she can, but many people cannot do that. If we want austerity, we will have such problems.

On 7 January, no mention whatever was made on the Front Benches about the situation. Yesterday, the Government acknowledged the impact of social care cuts and announced £25 million-worth of emergency funding for 65 council areas experiencing the most severe delays in discharging elderly patients from hospital. No mention at all was made by the Secretary of State when he opened the debate today. It was hidden away, but it is in the national press if anyone wants to look for it. The Government know the situation: they know what problems have been created in A and E in hospitals up and down the land by these cuts, yet no mention was made, even though the motion specifically mentions A and E problems.

I shall finish now, but I must say that if people want austerity and if they want to fight a general electionon the basis of being better at the economy than the other side, they need to realise the price paid for it. My mum survived it, but many people in this land are not surviving it. In my view, it is not a price worth paying. We need serious change—and I say that not only to the Government Front-Bench team, but to the Opposition Front-Bench team. We need to make serious changes in this country to look after our most needy people. We are not getting that under this Government.

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