Tag Archives: health

Jim Hume MSP: SNP risks making GPs an exclusive service that many can’t access

I was interested to see this report in today’s Scotsman which featured Labour and the SNP slugging it out over cuts to GP training posts. People are finding it more and more difficult to get an early appointment with their GPs. You would think that the service that is the most common way for us to access the NHS would be better funded, but primary care now accounts for just 7.8% of healthcare funding, down from 9.8% in 2011.

It is causing a fairly massive amount of concern. You’d think that they’d want to discuss it in Parliament.

Oh wait – they did, but the Scotsman didn’t feel the need to talk about the debate initiated by Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume just yesterday afternoon.

Jim warned that the failure to recruit and train sufficient GPs risked the service becoming inaccessible to many people. He cited a survey carried out by the Scottish Liberal Democrats which showed that 4 in 10 respondents found their workload unmanageable and a third would choose a different career path.  An SNP MSP typically intervened to blame Westminster for increasing contributions to public sector pensions. In fact, it was day to day work concerns that upset GPs most:

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Opinion: Conservative health policies are short on detail

What have the Conservatives said on health so far? Their manifesto makes big promises – but is vague on detail.

NHS England’s Five Year Forward View called for £8 billion more annually by 2020 (alongside £22 billion efficiency savings) to maintain NHS standards.

Liberal Democrats were the first to sign up to this – and we set out clearly how to fund it. The Conservatives matched this – but give no details on funding this other than the ‘recovering economy’.

Lamb also called for a (much-needed!) cross-party Review of NHS & Social Care funding.

David Cameron yesterday proposed 7-day hospital services and 7-day extended hours GP access, offering 5,000 extra GP’s.

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38 Degrees get it badly wrong on Lib Dem funding for NHS – but don’t do nearly enough to put it right

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s a fact of life. However, when you do, you need to properly acknowledge it and make amends.

One of the key Liberal Democrat priorities for this election is that we would fund the £8 billion that the NHS in England needs. In fact, we’re spending more than that on health because  there are Barnett consequentials giving about another billion to Scotland and Wales. It’s not difficult to understand.

Last Thursday, campaign organisation 38 Degrees put up a graphic on its Facebook page which compared party’s pledges against what the NHS needed. The figure cited for the Liberal Democrats was just £2 billion, a mere quarter of what we intend to spend.  This has now been shared by over 1400 people and has been seen by many, many more.

Many people have pointed out the glaring error in their graphic. To each comment, the organisation has made an individual reply:

38 Degrees apology over NHS


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Opinion: Plain Packaging: Will Tobacco Be the End or Just the Beginning?

While I think I was pleased to see the vote by MPs earlier this month, introducing plain packaging for tobacco products, it did also set off faint alarm bells – with me at least. There is something rather drastic about passing a law that requires legally produced and distributed goods to be wrapped in plain card or paper – even if the move was approved by Parliament based on medical evidence. I almost feel it would have been better to actually ban tobacco products altogether.

To be honest, obesity is not that far behind smoking as a leading cause of early death. We know that obesity is partly fuelled by attractively-packaged foods, high in sugar and fat, freely available on every supermarket shelf in the UK. High-street fast food chains – whose rise has been, seemingly, unstoppable – are another contributor to the problem. Britain now spends over £45 billion each year dealing with the health and social care costs associated with an increasingly overweight population.  

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Annette Brooke MP writes…Choice at the end of life is vital – free social care can make that happen

Annette BrookeThere are no dress rehearsals when it comes to where we are and who we are with when we die – so it’s crucial that people have as much choice and control over the situation as possible.  This is important not only to the person who is at the end of their life, but also those close to them. A person’s last days will stay with family and friends forever, so it is important that they should be left with a lasting, positive memory of their loved one receiving good quality care in a place of their choice.

What is not acceptable is for someone to end their days against their wishes in an expensive hospital bed, purely because they did not have the right support to die at home. Sadly, we know far too many people currently do not die in a place of their choosing. Macmillan Cancer Support found that 36,000 people with cancer who wanted to die at home died in hospital in England in 2012. In fact, 73 per cent of people living with cancer would prefer to die at home, but figures show only 30 per cent are currently able to do so. We cannot continue to have final experiences and enduring memories shaped by the absence of choice for people at the end of life.

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Opinion: Time to dump the 4 hour A & E target

To be frank, as a doctor, I have been underwhelmed by our Liberal Democrat offering on health issues over the years; certainly we are not as strong on health as we should be.

The almost daily drip feed from the right wing press on NHS shortcomings and failures is demoralising to staff and frightening to patients and designed to be so. It serves no-one except those who want to undermine the public’s confidence in the NHS. The service treats three quarters of a million patients every day of the year, and for most people there is no alternative.

So I am  relieved that at last we have something distinctive to offer with Norman Lamb’s ideas on mental health; parity of access and delivery, more  research and funding. This is important, and we need to ‘own’ it as Liberal Democrat policy.

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UKIP’s official health spokesperson: “I have no experience in health whatsoever”

Louise Bours MEP, UKIP’s health spokesperson, made a startling admission to the Independent in an interview published today. She said:

One thing that irritates me more than anything, and you see so much of it the higher up the political hierarchy you go, that’s it’s full of a load off… people who aren’t particularly honest, let’s put it that way,” says Louise Bours, Ukip MEP for the North-west and the party’s official health spokesperson.

I like people to be straight with me, I don’t like all this…shenanigans in the background, I’d rather people be honest and up-front and I always try to answer things very honestly.

So, honestly, I have no experience in health whatsoever, she says.>

On one of the key battlegrounds of the election, UKIP’s designated spokesperson is basically saying she’s sorry, she doesn’t have a clue.

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Clegg’s letter to Burnham: “you may have inadvertently misled” Commons on Labour’s NHS privatisation record

clegg on leveson 2Nick Clegg fielded Prime Minister’s Questions today, during which he noted that Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is “the only man in England who has ever privatised an NHS hospital”. Mr Burham complained that Nick had misled the House of Commons over the issue of Hichingbrooke Hospital, accusing him of “sheer inaccuracy”. The Lib Dem leader lost no time in responding:

Dear Andy,

I see that you raised a Point of Order in the House of Commons and that you accused me of “sheer inaccuracy”. I am always happy to confirm the accuracy of what I have said.

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Liz Barker leads first ever Lords debate on Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s health

Last Wednesday, Baroness Liz Barker, who made one of the most fantastic speeches of the entire debate on same sex marriage,  led the first ever debate on health services for lesbians and bisexual and transgender women.

The ignorance and even ridicule LBT women have faced from health professionals in the accounts Liz and others shared during the debate is truly astonishing. There does not seem to be a widespread understanding of even the very basic issues they may face.

The Minister’s reply was a bit frustrating because he basically agreed with everything that was being said but didn’t offer any actual, concrete proposal to make things better.

You can read the whole debate here, but Liz’s speech in full is published below:

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Norman Lamb writes… Extra funding for the NHS is a Lib Dem priority right now

nhs sign lrgAs a society we are judged by the way that we care for the vulnerable, the elderly, and those suffering from illness. Britain can be proud that in 1948 we led the world in laying the foundations for a universal health service, available to all regardless of wealth.

And we continue to lead the world today. Earlier this year the Commonwealth Fund rated the UK NHS best in the world overall, as well as in a number of specific categories.

In this Government, Liberal Democrats have protected health spending, …

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Opinion: What Andy Burnham didn’t tell you about NHS privatisation

nhs sign lrgAndy Burnham’s recent set-piece speech on the NHS, the latest instalment of Labour’s “summer offensive”, opened with a neat bit of scene-setting. By briefly championing a group of Darlington mothers who are presently marching 300 miles in protest at the use of private providers in the NHS, he conjured a mood of protest while subtly co-opting their campaign. Thereafter he sought only to reduce the 2015 general election to a “binary choice” between “a part-privatised, two-tier health market under David Cameron” and “a public, integrated national health and care service under Labour.”

In terms of how he defined that choice, though, Burnham could hardly have done worse than to frame his argument with an example from Cambridgeshire, singling out for particular criticism its attempt to integrate care services for older people.

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Paul Burstow MP writes… Making the pursuit of happiness as important as GDP

cf reportOver the past 12 months I have been working with mental health experts and the think-tank CentreForum, grappling with the challenge of how we can improve mental health care.

Today sees the publication of our final report, The pursuit of happiness: a new ambition for our mental health. It reflects the expertise of many, makes a number of recommendations to transform not just health services, but the mental health of the nation, and it has one overarching call – that the pursuit of happiness should be a priority …

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LibLink: Norman Lamb: Volunteers play a key role in the health care system

Care in the home Some rights reserved by British Red Cross

Norman Lamb has been writing for the Eastern Daily Press about the importance of volunteering. He looks at the sorts of things people can do and the difference it makes. He sees spending time with others as a very important part of keeping people healthy.

Last Friday I set off from my constituency office in North Walsham to visit an elderly lady I met through a local volunteering scheme. My job is to take her books from the

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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 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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Baroness Claire Tyler writes…A victory for public health (and cross-party working)

Moving amendments to legislation in the Lords can often feel like an interesting and worthy – but ultimately pointless – activity as often nothing changes. Not so this week!. I was one of the cross party group of peers who moved an  amendment to the Children and Families Bill last week to introduce powers to bring in regulations on standard packaging for cigarettes. My fellow peers were Ilora Finlay (crossbench), Richard Faulkner (Labour), and Ian McColl (Conservative). In the Commons it has also been genuinely cross party endeavour, the campaign being led by MPs including Paul Burstow and Stephen Williams …

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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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Actually, Nick, there might be something in the vouchers for breastfeeding idea…

Nick Clegg was asked yesterday, on his LBC phone in, what he thought about the plan to give women in deprived areas £200 in High Street shopping vouchers. This was one of these questions which he had to answer by instinct because he didn’t know the detail and to give him credit, he said a lot of the right things. He talked about how no mum should feel pressured to breastfeed, but those who do should get the support they need. Whether he knows on a practical level what that actually means, though, is not clear.

He was unambiguous about …

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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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Jim Hume MSP launches consultation on bill banning smoking in vehicles with children present

Jim Hume launching consultation on smokingLiberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland Jim Hume this week launched a consultation on his Members’ Bill which would see smoking banned in vehicles where children are present. When I initially flagged this up a few weeks ago, there was a mixed reaction to the proposals.

Jim says in the foreword to his consultation document:

Recent research has shown that 17% of 11-16 year olds in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke more than once a week while in a car with a further

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Banning smoking in cars when children are present: what do you think?

Jim HumeNorth of the Border, the war on smoking continues. Today, larger shops are no longer allowed to display cigarettes. Now, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP and health spokesperson Jim Hume is introducing a Member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament which will ban smoking in cars where children are present. His proposal will be put out to public consultation from 28th May. Talking about his plan over the weekend, he said:

The tobacco display ban is another welcome step in changing Scotland’s relationship with smoking which began with the ban in smoking in

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The Independent View: The case for ending unfair, out of date prescription charges for people with long term conditions

We are now just over two years away from the next general election and political parties are starting to develop their manifestos.

In this age of austerity, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s team has already identified “alarm clock Britain” as a key demographic in need of help – these are the basic rate taxpayers who get up early, take their children to school and then go to work only to find their living standards squeezed by current economic circumstances. If Liberal Democrats are indeed committed to helping this section of the population, they need look no further than delivering reform on …

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Preventing another Winterbourne View

The first time I wrote on these pages as a health minister was when eleven former members of staff at Winterbourne View private hospital were sentenced. The judicial process ran its course and the Government process, too, has now reached a conclusion. On Monday I published our response to the shocking abuse that took place at Winterbourne View and the systemic weaknesses that allowed it to happen. Most importantly, I have set out what we are doing in Government to prevent it happening again.

Holding directors to account

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That NHS spending row in full

The story: Conservative Health secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘rebuked’ for claiming the Coalition has increased NHS spending in England.

The promise: that the NHS budget in England would be increased in real terms during the Coalition. That promise was kept (just) — the 2010 Spending Review committed the Coalition to a 0.1% real-terms annual increase.

The reality: the NHS did not spend all its budget in 2011/12. As a result, the out-turn in NHS spending has, probably, marginally fallen since 2009/10. Though the UK Statistics Authority concludes: “Given …

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Norman Lamb writes: The Liverpool Care Pathway and end of life care

I imagine many people had not heard of the Liverpool Care Pathway before it hit the headlines a couple of weeks ago with allegations of patients denied drugs, liquid and sustenance and families experiencing real distress. Set up in the late 1990s, its intention was to help spread elements of the hospice model of care into other settings: hospitals, care homes and people’s own homes. We all want to know that our loved ones – no matter where they are – will receive dignified and appropriate care in the last hours and days of their life.

Used properly, the Pathway ensures that individuals receive whatever treatments are right for them in their final days. The Liverpool Care Pathway itself is very clear that patients should be involved in decisions about their care if possible, and that carers and families should always be included in the decision-making process.

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Baroness Parminter writes… Food labelling: a cautious welcome but much more to do

For many years, the Liberal Democrats have been calling for more consistent food labelling, most recently with our Autumn conference motion, ‘Good Food Shouldn’t Cost the Earth’.

That’s why I welcome the announcement that a new consistent system of ‘front of pack’ labelling will be up and running by summer 2013. It is a cautious welcome because the new system will be voluntary and the biggest challenge – getting all the food industry fully on board – still lies ahead. But, it is encouraging to

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LibLink: Paul Burstow – Why is the Coalition failing to tackle our broken care system?

Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow, until the reshuffle the Lib Dem health minister, has written an article in today’s Telegraph with a plea for the Coalition to ‘be bold and take the decisions needed to fix our broken social care system’. Here are a couple of excerpts, first looking at why Paul fears the reforms he pushed in government might not go anywhere:

The Coalition understood the “urgent need for reform”, and has been wrestling with these issues since May 2010. In July the White Paper I drafted was published. It tackles much that is wrong with care. Widely welcomed, it

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LDVideo: Nick Clegg – “If I thought this Bill was about privatising the NHS, it would never have seen the light of day”

Nick Clegg took part in an afternoon Q&A at today’s Lib Dem conference, and vigorously defended the changes to the NHS being implemented by the Coalition as amended by the party. Conference representatives earlier voted, by a slim margin of 309 votes to 280, to debate tomorrow morning Shirley Williams’ motion, ‘Saving the NHS’, rather than the ‘Drop the Bill’ motion put forward by Winchester Lib Dems.

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