Author Archives: Norman Lamb MP

Norman Lamb writes … Dementia: the biggest challenge of our time

My motherThere are currently 800,000 people living with dementia in the UK.  By 2021, that figure is expected to rise to over a million.  The disease costs the economy £23 billion a year, and that figure is expected to treble by 2040.

But as anyone who has come into contact with dementia will know, no statistics can convey the loneliness, isolation, and acute emotional distress that all too often comes with it – not just for those with the condition, but for their carers and family too.

photo by: Vince Alongi
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Norman Lamb writes … we must fight for mental health to get the recognition it needs

Mental health - bipolar -  Some rights reserved by Mrs TeePotIn my time as Mental Health minister, I have written here several times about the unacceptable disparity between mental health and physical health in our health system.  For far too long, physical health has been prioritised over mental health.

Perhaps the most stark difference is in terms of what happens when you suffer a mental health crisis. If you break your arm or suffer a stroke, you know that you will be taken to A&E, where you will get access to the expertise you need.

It’s very different in mental health. You may end up in a police cell or you may get sent a long way away from home to get a bed in a mental health unit. This would never be tolerated in physical health so why should it be acceptable in mental health?

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Norman Lamb MP writes: I am determined everyone should be able to get good quality care

James Terry Court, Croydon - License Some rights reserved by sjr60If you watched Panorama last week, you will have been as horrified as I was by some of the footage.  The treatment portrayed was disgraceful and a very clear illustration of the need for the changes that we are currently introducing in the health and care sector. As Liberal Democrat Care Minister, I am determined that everyone should be able to get good quality care, and to be treated with dignity.

As minister, I want to make sure that we are able to …

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Norman Lamb MP writes: Ending face down restraint

Department of health, mental health care reportI am sure that many of you will remember the stories about the Winterbourne View scandal a couple of years ago.  Vulnerable residents with autism and learning difficulties were subjected to shocking abuse from those who should have been protecting and caring for them.  The review that was carried out into the scandal highlighted the widespread and inappropriate use of physical restraint, including dangerous face-down restraint, at the hospital.

As a Liberal Democrat I am committed to tackling poor quality care, and ensuring that everyone in …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Improving patient safety in the NHS

Nurse jokes with patientBack in 2012, an independent study of NHS case notes from hospitals concluded that in about 2.3% of hospital deaths there was strong evidence that death could have been prevented. In practice, this equates to around 6,300 preventable deaths in hospitals every year.

This is a shocking statistic. As Liberal Democrats, we should never fall into the trap of talking down the NHS – our health and care services do fantastic work day after day savings lives and providing excellent care.  But we must also be willing to confront …

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Norman Lamb writes: Protecting people’s health and care data

In Government, as in opposition, Liberal Democrats have been staunch defenders of people’s right to privacy, campaigning against state intrusion into people’s private lives.  Our 2010 manifesto included commitments to scrap Identity Cards, block Home Office plans to snoop into people’s email and internet records, and remove innocent people from police DNA databases.  In Government, we have delivered: ID cards were stopped, the “snoopers’ charter” revived by Tories at the Home Office was killed off by Nick Clegg, and millions of people’s DNA records have been deleted from Police databases.

People have a fundamental right to expect personal information to be …

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Norman Lamb writes… Working together for better mental health crisis care

When someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, it essential that they feel able to access the help they need – and quickly. They will probably be in a state of extreme distress and confusion. Without help, people may be at risk of causing harm to themselves and those around them (cases of injury to others are actually very rare). They often end up in police cells – completely inappropriately. They may even commit suicide – and all too often, I hear tragic cases of suicide after someone has repeatedly been unable to access mental …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Francis, one year on

A year ago last week, Robert Francis QC published his report into the failings at Stafford Hospital, and set out his recommendations to ensure that those failings would not be repeated.  As a Liberal Democrat, I am committed to delivering better care, and ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect when they come into contact with our health and care system. Today I want to report back myself on what we have achieved so far.

There are dedicated staff across the NHS and the care sector, who work tirelessly day after day to provide the best possible care for …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Why I’ll be voting to ban smoking in cars carrying children

Later this evening, MPs will be given a vote on proposals to ban smoking in cars carrying children. It will be a free vote, and within each party there will be MPs who vote each way. If the proposal is approved, from next year it could become a criminal offence to smoke when there is a child in the car.

There would be no new police resource allocated to enforcing the ban proactively. But this would send a clear message out that smoking in cars with children is unacceptable, and I support the measure wholeheartedly.

Votes like this always raise questions about …

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#Timetotalk: Norman Lamb MP responds…

I have been really impressed by the moving personal contributions on Lib Dem Voice today setting people’s own experience of mental health. It reminded me powerfully why I am a Liberal Democrat.  As Holly Matthies wrote, tackling mental health stigma is fundamentally about freedom – freedom from poverty, ignorance, and conformity.

Time to talk dayMental health isn’t something that happens to other people.  1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point during their life – and everyone will know someone close to them who is affected.  And we …

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Norman Lamb writes… Mental Health: our priorities for essential change

closing the gapSupport for those with mental health problems has come a long way since 2010. Rectifying the profound injustice in the priority given to physical health over mental health has been one of my highest priorities as Health Minister – as I know that it was too for Paul Burstow. When at least one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life, making sure they get the support they need to live independent and fulfilled lives is essential in delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society.

But there remains a very long way to go. People who rely on our mental health services – patients and carers – continue to experience unacceptable waits for services, and huge inconsistencies in the quality of provision. Some parts of our health and care system don’t do nearly enough to enable those with mental health conditions to live within their community, properly supported.

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Norman Lamb writes… managing offenders with mental illness

It is a really disturbing fact that 1 in 4 members of the prison population has a severe mental illness. Addressing this is one of the big social reforms which has not yet happened.

Far too often these conditions are diagnosed for the first time in prison. In many cases, their mental illness will have been a significant factor contributing to their criminal behaviour. If these people had been properly diagnosed when they first came into contact with police, and they had been provided with appropriate support and therapy, their offending actions might have been averted.

Identifying offenders with mental …

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Norman Lamb writes… A once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix our health and care system

In 1997 Tony Blair told the Labour Party conference “I don’t want brought up in a country where the only way pensioners can get long-term care is by selling their home.” And yet speaking to the Health Select Committee in 2010, in Labour’s final months in office, Andy Burnham said, “every member of the Cabinet believed social care to be an area that had not been properly reformed and was one of great unfairness”. In thirteen years of talk, and promises, Labour did nothing to fix our dysfunctional, and profoundly unfair, system of funding social care.

In …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Have your say on dementia care

Back in 2008, when I was Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, I spoke out about poor diagnosis rates for dementia sufferers, saying that “the NHS must do more to ensure people are encouraged to seek early help and that they have access to care from their GP, specialist assessment and accurate diagnosis.” Dementia diagnosis rates across the country vary significantly – and although they are improving, they are still not good enough. And, while there is some excellent dementia care – there has also been much that is inadequate.

I could never have imagined then that – 5 years on – …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…My view on cigarette standardised packaging

Yesterday the Government announced that it is launching an independent review of the public health evidence on standardised packaging for cigarettes.

As a Liberal I will always defend an individual’s right to smoke when they can do so without this having an impact on those around them, but I have made clear in the past my personal view that we should introduce standardised packaging.

This is a product, after all, which kills something in the region of 100,000 people a year. Is it really that unreasonable to argue that, given this death-rate, we should be able to restrict, in all ways, the …

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Norman Lamb writes… How Liberal Democrats are promoting safety and openness in the NHS

nhs sign lrgAs a Liberal Democrat, my priority for the NHS is simple. I want patients to have the best possible care. When people are ill and vulnerable, they deserve safe and compassionate care provided by doctors and nurses with the best possible training and medical expertise. And people need to know that, when mistakes are made, doctors will be open with them – and that lessons will be learnt.

What happened at Mid Staffs Hospital was a shocking scandal. The stories of neglect sent shock waves across the country. This Government …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Another step forwards in achieving parity for mental health

It’s a bit of a cliché to say that mental health is the Cinderella service of the NHS but it’s essentially true. There is a real institutional bias against mental health. It loses out financially when budgets are tight for local commissioners and significant advances on choice and access for patients introduced by the Labour Government left out mental health.

In the time I have available to me as Care Minister, I am determined to do everything I can to combat this and the update of the Government’s Mandate – which sets out the Government’s priorities from the NHS – published yesterday, …

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Norman Lamb writes … The start of a revolution in joined-up care

Back in May, I wrote on Lib Dem Voice, about the launch of a programme of “Integration Pioneers” to drive forward the revolution in joined-up care that is desperately needed across the NHS and social care.

On Friday, I announced the final outcome of a rigorous process to select the very best leaders in integrated care. A panel of experts, including some of the global leaders in integrated care, scrutinised the bids. Now, 14 Pioneers spread across England covering rural and urban areas will lead a movement of change joining up a horribly fragmented system which too often let’s …

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Norman Lamb writes… A year at the Department of Health

Many of you who are councillors will know that yesterday was the first day of the annual National Children and Adult Services conference has been taking place these last three days. When I attended last year, I had only been in my role as Care Minister for a few weeks. Preparing for my speech this year, I was reflecting on quite how much we have achieved over the past twelve months.

In the past year, we have made significant progress in delivering some of the recommendations made by Andrew Dilnot on financing social care. We have launched the first NHS Mandate, enshrining …

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Norman Lamb writes: A huge leap forwards in delivering personal health budgets

nhs sign lrgAt the heart of the Liberal vision of a fairer society is the belief that people should be in control of their lives – the belief that the state does not always know best.  For decades in the NHS and the social care sector, we have had a situation where the government will spend tens of thousands of pounds a year providing care for an individual, but giving that individual little or no control over the design and commissioning of their package of care.  We need to achieve a …

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World Mental Health Day #timetochange

time to changeThose of you who have read previous contributions from me to Lib Dem Voice will know that at the very top of my list of priorities as a health minister is to transform the care and support for people with mental health problems.  Every year, the Mental Health Foundation – one of Britain’s leading mental health research and policy charities – holds World Mental Health day, to raise awareness of different mental health conditions.  Mental health has always struggled to attract the same attention as physical health …

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Norman Lamb: Support for Volunteer Groups across our Health and Care System

Charities and not-for-profit organisations offer an extraordinary range of care services across the UK. They offer millions of people access to high-quality treatment, advice and support. Brilliant innovation in care often happens in this sector. It is critical that the NHS works hand in hand with third sector organisations to make full use of the important work that they carry out in enabling people to live healthier, more independent lives.

Last week I announced the latest round of funding for the Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development (IESD) Fund, which is designed to support voluntary groups in promoting health and wellbeing in local communities.

The …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…The Better Care promise – driving up standards of care across our NHS

It is clear that no single institution has done more to improve people’s lives than the NHS, and its generosity and expertise is something of which we are rightly proud. Yet events which have come to light, such as the abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View or the grave neglect of patients at Stafford Hospital, have highlighted serious problems within our health service.

This week in particular we have seen the publication of two key independent reviews on NHS care, both of which highlight areas in need of urgent improvement. The outcome of the review by Baroness Neuberger …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Tackling Mental Health stigma and discrimination: the NHS 65 years on

65 years ago today, the foundations of our modern National Health Service were laid based on the recommendations of a Liberal, William Beveridge. The founding principle that our NHS should always be free at the point of use endures today. The NHS now treats around a million people every 36 hours, with 300 million GP appointments each year. It is a national institution of which we are rightly proud.

However, the National Health Service is far from perfect. Significant changes are needed to cope with the challenges faced by the fact that people are living longer, and are living with an …

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Norman Lamb MP writes: Ensuring transparency and accountability in the Health Service

In recent months we have seen some shocking examples of failures of care within the health service. Tragic events such as those which occurred at the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital and the Winterbourne View Hospital have demonstrated a desperate need to ensure that people are held to account when awful things happen across the NHS and care services.

It is clear that we need to restore trust in health and care services. When a serious failing occurs it is simply unacceptable for patients and their families to be left in the dark or to feel that those responsible have not had to face …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… A pooled health and social care budget

This week’s spending review settlement again guaranteed funding for the NHS with another increase in funding by £2.1bn in cash terms for 2015-16. But we know these are challenging times for the NHS and for care services. A&E departments are facing rising demand and local authorities are having to make tough decisions on care. That is why as part of the settlement we announced a £3.8bn pooled health and social care budget to join up care around people’s lives. It doesn’t matter who provides the care – what matters is that people get the care they need and they don’t …

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National carers week 2013

At some point in our lives, almost all of us will find ourselves caring for a relative or close friend. Many of us will one day be reliant on some form of care ourselves. We owe our carers an immense debt of gratitude. In this week’s National Carers Week, individuals and organisations are joining together to highlight the invaluable work carried out by UK carers and to raise the profile of the nature and challenges of the role.

For too long, the care system in the UK has been designed around the needs of large organisations rather than around …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Integrating Care – Joined up thinking in the NHS

Many of you will have seen last week the headlines following comments by David Prior, the Chairman of the CQC, about the unsustainable pressure on Accident and Emergency wards in the UK. The truth is that patients are getting excellent care in A&E departments up and down the country. The NHS is coping well with the increase in demand. But there is no denying that there has been a big increase in demand on our emergency services. There is no easy fix to this situation, especially at a time when the NHS needs to make limited resources go further. But …

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Norman Lamb writes … Culture change – the foundations

How do you change the culture of an organisation – particularly one as large as the NHS? That was one of the key questions posed by the Francis Inquiry into the appalling failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital. Today we set out part of the answer.

The overriding message of the Francis report was the need for a culture change across the NHS to make sure that patients always come first. That change will take time, leadership, and engagement from staff. But the measures announced today set the tone, and signal what I hope will be the start of a transformation. They …

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Norman Lamb MP writes… Ending unlimited care costs: an historic step

This Coalition is at its best when it is tackling the country’s long-term structural problems. That, after all, is why we came together with the Conservatives to form a Coalition Government and deal with the record deficit that we inherited from the last Labour government. Nowhere is this more evident than in today’s historic announcement to protect people, for the first time ever, from the threat of unlimited care costs. That is why I have been pushing relentlessly for this reform since my first day in the job in September.

For anyone doubting whether this is a truly “historic” announcement, …

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    Another important issue is of people's jobs being redefined, or entire swathes of individuals being forced to 'reapply' to 'new' jobs with functionally identical roles...