Cllr Richard Kemp, LGA Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Health and Social Care said:
“The NHS 10-year plan unveiled today has four serious shortcomings:
- “Talk of moving money towards prevention is welcome but hollow given that the Government has removed £80 million from this year’s Public Health Budgets for councils which is approximately a 30% reduction since 2015.
- “It fails to recognise the underfunding of social care which is currently more than £2 billion underfunded and will rise to £4 billion by 2025. This means more people going into hospital than is necessary and staying there longer than is necessary.
- “There is no recognition here of the need to create parity between physical health and mental health.
- “The claims that we have an efficient system are far-fetched. The NHS is over-bureaucratised and consists of a series of warring factions, departments and Trusts. Local control needs to be given to the NHS bodies under democratic local structures.
“If we love our NHS we need to change it. This plan goes some small way to achieving this but shows once again the reluctance of NHS bosses to tackle crucial issues.”
Norman Lamb MP, former Liberal Democrat Health Minister, added:
“Delivering this ambitious plan is likely to be fatally undermined by insufficient resources, a staffing crisis and a failure to address the disastrous situation with social care.
“The Government’s commitment to a new focus on prevention rings hollow when the very services which help prevent elderly people ending up in hospital are at breaking point and vital public health budgets are progressively cut back.
“The Liberal Democrats will continue to demand that the Government works with other parties to achieve a genuine long term, sustainable settlement for the NHS and social care.
“We will keep making the case for a new, dedicated NHS and care tax to guarantee a modern, effective and efficient NHS and care system which will be there for our loved ones when they need it.”
Richard and Norman are correct, including the need to address many more issues. Gross health inequalities are top amongst these. While it’s good the plan proposes enhanced NHS action to serve people most in need, inequalities in health experience and health care outcomes are inseparable from gross and growing structural inequalities right across society.
We shall stand or fall as a radical progressive party on our commitment to address these inequalities with effective policies and on our ability to persuade the electorate that we can do so and that we will. Even at our peak as a party we weren’t very good at this. Where - if anywhere - is the current focus and action in the party on this vital, cross-cutting policy work?
One problem is that Public Health officers who are now ebbed within County Councils simply do not know what funds they will now have at their disposal. We are coming to th end of a four year funding programme which saw a progressive reduction but are now entering a new period with only guesswork to go on.