Author Archives: Norman Lamb MP

Norman Lamb MP writes…Disastrous A & E figures emphasise need for independent commission on NHS future

Every day seems to bring new crushing evidence of the immense strain facing the NHS and social care. Missed key targets have become the norm rather than the exception; A&E is bearing the brunt of cuts to preventive and community services; and few were surprised when NHS trusts recently revealed a record deficit of £2.45 billion.

After hearing anecdotal accounts of ambulances queueing up outside A&E departments due to a lack of available beds in my own county of Norfolk, I decided to investigate the true scale of the problem across the whole country by submitting Freedom of Information requests to each Ambulance Trust in England.

What I discovered was far more shocking than I had feared. More than 10,000 patients were stuck in an ambulance for more than two hours waiting to be handed over to hospital staff last year – a staggering four-fold increase over just three years. The number of people having to endure waits of more than an hour before being admitted has almost trebled in the same period.

In total, almost 400,000 hours were wasted in the last year alone due to handover delays of more than 15 minutes, the national target for getting patients out of the ambulance and into the care of A&E staff. That’s equivalent to 16,554 days of patients waiting in limbo while ambulance crews and vehicles are unnecessarily tied up, unable to respond to new emergency calls.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes…Why I support assisted dying

You will have probably heard by now that the Assisted Dying Bill was defeated in Parliament this afternoon by a margin of about three to one.

The scale of victory for opponents of the Bill was almost exactly the same as when it was last debated in 1997. This is remarkable, given the degree of public support for reform – over 80% according to a poll earlier this year. I respect the deeply held convictions of those who oppose assisted dying but I can’t help but reflect on how out of step with public mood Parliament appears to be on this issue of such profound importance.  And before anyone reacts – yes I understand we have a representative democracy and I know that it cuts both ways. I am deeply relieved that Parliament has always rejected hanging!

I used to oppose assisted dying. I shared the concerns of many people about the risk this could pose to vulnerable individuals under pressure from greedy relatives. However, in recent years my views have been challenged.

During my time as a Health Minister and my years as a Member of Parliament I have heard the testimonies of people with terminal conditions, often in great pain, who wanted the right to end their suffering with dignity and in a way of their choosing. Listening to these stories has forced me to confront the principles at stake.

Ultimately, the question surely is: should it be the individual or the state who decides? For me, as a Liberal, there can be no doubt. I know that I would want the right to decide for myself, so I cannot deny it to others.

As Care Minister, I was completely focused on improving end of life care, an area of medicine too often neglected in the past. I had to address really serious concerns about how the Liverpool Care Pathway had been applied in many hospitals as a one size fits all protocol.

What has emerged from the review I initiated is a new approach which focuses completely on the priorities and needs of the individual patient. There is a strong consensus now that, at the end of life, the patient’s wishes come first – on resuscitation, on where to die and so on. How odd then, that when it comes to the most profound question of all, we deny the person the right to decide.

The current legal situation is not just a messy compromise; it is cruel and wrong. We put families into the most invidious position. If they act out of compassion in helping a loved one to die, they still face having their home declared a ‘crime scene’ and then face an investigation which could go on for months, interfering horribly with the process of grieving. The DPP guidelines talk about ‘the suspect’. Surely we can’t put people through this.

Some people, of course, travel to another country to end their life, if they can afford it. But even that is, surely, grotesque – expecting a dying person to travel to an alien clinic in another country, when they could be at home with loved ones. For those who can’t afford to travel, they face the dreadful choice of soldiering on, perhaps in great pain and loss of dignity – or commit suicide. A Labour MP today wrote of how his own father ended his life in this way. Surely, again, this is intolerable.

Another concern people often raise is that giving people the right to die would somehow distract from, or conflict with, steps to ensure excellent palliative care. But good palliative care and assisted dying are in no way incompatible. It is up to Parliament to ensure that we invest enough in palliative care. In Oregon, where assisted dying has been lawful for many years, there is better access to specialist palliative care than in most other states.

John Stuart Mill wrote: “The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

I will keep campaigning for that sovereignty to be respected at the end of life, despite the defeat in Parliament today.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes…We must renew, restructure and simplify the way our party works

I believe a priority for the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats is to renew, restructure and simplify the way our Party works. Some parts of the Party work well – others do not. Good practice should be shared and problem areas tackled.

As Liberal Democrats, we rightly set high standards for ourselves on tolerance, equality, openness, accountability, and diversity.  But our party often doesn’t live up to them.

During this campaign people have been telling me that there wasn’t enough accountability within the party.  People had concerns about our central message and the way we fought the election – but it felt like there was no easy channel to get those messages through.  And where mistakes were made, it wasn’t clear who ultimately was responsible.

Few party members really understand how our party works.  There are so many committees with overlapping responsibility.  The process for election to many offices within the party is arcane.  If no-one knows how our party structures work, there cannot be effective accountability.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 30 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes: I want us to lead the way in Parliament to allow assisted dying

For many years, I opposed attempts to legalise assisted dying.  I had concerns, shared by many, that the risk to the most vulnerable individuals outweighed the benefits.  Equally, I respect those with deeply held religious concerns.
 
But my views have been challenged in recent years. As an MP and in my role in the last Parliament as a health minister, I have spoken to many terminally ill patients, and the families of those who suffered slow deaths in great pain.
 
So many of them were convinced, when someone is suffering intolerably, and when they are reaching the end of their life, they should be allowed to end their suffering with dignity, and with the support of those closest to them.
 
These testimonies have forced me to think again. Would I want the right to decide for myself, when faced with terminal illness, when I wished to die? And would I want it for loved ones? The answer is unequivocally, yes. 
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 31 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes…We can’t wait another 5 years to have a woman in the party leadership

The campaign for the leadership of our party is now underway and I am excited by the prospect and humbled by the many messages of support and encouragement I have received.

However as a party we need to look at how we operate and what we look like to the outside world. One issue, in particular, now has an urgency to it which we can’t ignore. We have danced around gender imbalance at the highest levels for too long ….. and I am not prepared to wait a further five years before women are able to feature at the leadership level. Given that there were no women elected to the House of Commons and so no woman can stand for the leadership, I believe it is essential that the deputy leader is a woman.

Consequently, as leader I will immediately propose to the federal executive that we should move to elect a Deputy Leader who is not required to be a member of the House of Commons, but who will play a major role as one of the party’s leading voices and campaigners. She could be one of the former or future colleagues mentioned below; a peer, a member of a devolved chamber or the European Parliament; a leading councillor or seasoned campaigner.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 51 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes – Trust in People: Why I’m standing for party leader

NormanLambThese are devastating results for the Liberal Democrats. All of us are completely shell shocked.

All party members must have a say in our future strategy and new leader. I have clear views on what we need to do and am intending to stand for leader.

Posted in Op-eds | 130 Comments

Norman Lamb writes…A blueprint for a fairer society

1 in 4 of us will develop a mental health problem at some point in our lives – and 75% of these conditions develop by the age of 18. If people don’t get the support they need in childhood and adolescence it can have an impact on the rest of their lives.  
 
And in yesterday’s budget, Liberal Democrats acted decisively to make sure the best possible support is available, with £1.25bn of new investment in young people’s mental health services, and a clear blue print for delivering the transformation needed.
 
If we want to build a fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to realise their full potential in life, we must ensure that young people with mental health problems get the help and support they need.
 
There are some really good mental health services for young people around the country. But too often these services are fragmented and under-resourced, and young people are simply not getting help when they need it.  A complete overhaul is long overdue.
 
Last year, I set up a Task Force to look at how we can link up mental health services with other advice services in the community, making it easier – and less daunting – for young people to seek help, and making sure they get the right support when they ask for it.
 
The task force brought together clinicians, counsellors, and mental health experts – but also, crucially, young people themselves with experience of mental health problems.  The charity Young Minds helped us work with young people to understand the problems they have faced getting help, and their priorities for change.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 8 Comments
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