Tag Archives: NHS

Guardian’s coverage of Liberal Democrat General Election campaign accentuates the negative

So what does the Guardian do to cheer itself up when a poll has shown Labour support is falling? Ah yes, they just write about how rubbish life is for the Liberal Democrats. Words like perilous, doom and resigned are peppered through the piece. I’m not suggesting that our prospects are the best they’ve ever been, but so much of what’s written about us is not so much “glass half empty” but “no liquid anywhere near the glass.”

I’d like to think that when Patrick Wintour and Nick Watt were doing their research for this, they were shown the vibrant Team 2015 operation, the busy and spirited things going on across the country in our key seats and that they just chose not to write about it because it doesn’t fit in with the pessimistic narrative. There are many things about the party’s campaigning that it can take a huge amount of pride in. There are bright and talented people in HQ who are doing the best they can with the material available to them. Did Wintour and Watt get to talk to the Austin Rathes and Steve Jollys of this world? I hope so.

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LibLink: Norman Lamb: Let’s ditch the rhetoric and do a deal on the NHS

Norman Lamb takes to the pages of today’s Independent on Sunday to make a plea to replace political heat with non-partisan light in the debate over the future of the NHS. He outlines what is currently happening:

Labour is pulling out all the stops to convince voters that the NHS is in crisis – a basket case run by private firms working to destroy it; the party searches for negative statistics and hospital horror stories to fit its narrative. On the other hand, the Conservatives have failed to come up with a plan to meet the £8bn shortfall by 2020 identified by Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS.

But the NHS is far too important to be treated as a political football. The truth is that it’s neither on the verge of disintegration, nor is everything perfect. There are problems, but also triumphs. The majority of patients, for the majority of the time, receive world-class care from dedicated staff.

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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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WATCH: How Lynne Featherstone secured an extra £23.5 million in NHS funding for local health services

This video shows how Lynne Featherstone went about remedying an inequality in NHS funding which meant that health services in Haringey received less in terms of funding than other areas of London. We love the bit where Lynne says:

If I see something that’s unfair, I want it made fair.

That’s very her.

She’s continuing her campaign because although the funding boost has enabled better facilities and staffing, it’s still not on an equal footing with other boroughs. Enjoy.

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TTIP and the NHS: Separating fact from fiction

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a proposed agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States. If agreed it will make it easier for companies and individuals across all EU member states and America to trade with one another, as well as encouraging greater bilateral investment.

I wrote generally about TTIP on LDV back in July, given that it is party policy to support the agreement. However, even at that point a concerted campaign had begun linking TTIP to the supposed privatisation of the National Health Service, with union leaders, campaigning websites and politicians calling either for TTIP to be abandoned or for special safeguards to be included.

This piece, therefore, addresses that issue in some detail.

Investor State Dispute Settlement

The “investment” part of TTIP seeks to increase the amount of foreign direct investment that flows between EU member states and the US. In other words, the amount of money that is spent establishing or expanding businesses or on other projects on which a monetary return is expected.

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Clegg says Lib Dems would spend extra £8bn on NHS

nhs sign lrgNick Clegg has set out how the Liberal Democrats would invest in the NHS in government for the next five years.

From the Guardian:

Fleshing out the figure released by the deputy prime minister at a press conference, the Lib Dems said they would increase the NHS’s funding by £8bn a year by 2020-21 in three stages. They would make permanent the coalition government’s extra £2bn a year – which was announced in the autumn statement – by 2015-16.

In addition, Clegg said the party would find another £1bn a year in real terms in 2016-17 by capping pension tax relief for the wealthiest (which the Lib Dems said would save £500m), aligning dividend tax with income tax for those earning more than £150,000 (saving £400m) and scrapping the shares for rights scheme, which allows employees to forfeit certain employment rights in return for company shares (saving £100m).

Once it had reduced the deficit in 2017-18, Clegg said that the party would increase health spending in line with growth in the economy. He said: “It’s a combination of change plus more money and the reason we can do that, and no other party will be able to do that, is firstly, as we explained at our party conference, is we are going to introduce some tax changes which only affect the very wealthiest, to put in an extra billion pounds into the NHS, and next year and the year after that.”

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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.

Posted in News, Parliament and PMQs | Also tagged , , , and | 32 Comments

Why IDS is still in his job is revealing of Conservative attitudes to social security

Iain Duncan SmithWhen Andrew Lansley’s health reforms ran into trouble – and his inability to take with him the public or those working in the NHS proved toxic – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Jeremy Hunt was brought in to make nice to the health sector and patients.

When Michael Gove’s education reforms started to run before they could walk – and his inability to take with him the public or the teachers proved toxic, especially in marginal constituencies – David Cameron reshuffled him out of harm’s way. Nicky …

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LibLink: Norman Lamb on integrated funding for health and care

Norman LambIn an interview with Public Finance Norman Lamb says that he has his sights on 2018, as the date by which all health and care spending will be pooled in England. He said:

I want the approach to evolve rather than having anything imposed. The only imposition is to say that we have got to get budgets pooled locally completely, and I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and I think we’ve come up with a neat solution to achieve the pooled budget without a national reorganisation, which nobody wants.

The Better Care Fund seems to me to be the sensible way of achieving that objective, to progressively increase the extent of the pooling, and as you do that I think you remove the perverse consequences of the gaming across the boundary between the two.

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Opinion: We can’t afford not to pay for social care

I had a visitor the other day – a resident who was her husband’s carer. Neither was elderly and she was coping remarkably well. I am honestly not sure I could perform her role. I suspect many of us couldn’t.

She had no complaint to make but instead wanted me to understand – for the purposes of local and national policy – what caring looked like in terms of costs. The simple point is that the care she provides comes cheap. She does most of the work so the local authority delivers only respite care at some thousands a year. But were she older, frailer or even simply smaller in stature this would not be possible. And then the cost of care would escalate as it fell to the state to provide it. Ultimately it would reach a six figure sum. Per annum.

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Kirsty Williams: For Labour and the Tories, Welsh patients are just collateral damage in NHS War

rally kirsty williams 1Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams emailed Welsh members yesterday about the current war of words over the Welsh NHS. Here’s what she said:

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Teacher workload – a concern north and south of the border

Yesterday, Nick Clegg gave a speech to public sector workers. His specific focus was on teacher workload. Everyone thinks that teachers work short hours and have long holidays. Yet everyone who has a child actually at school will know how much effort goes in to preparing lessons. And everyone who knows a teacher knows that they spend a lot of their supposed “off-duty” time thinking of interesting lessons or, more likely these days, filling in interminable paperwork. We know that children need to be kept safe and their progress checked, but I get the feeling that the bureaucracy is overbearing and unnecessary. Let’s just give you a small example from my own experience. Every time my child sets foot outside the school we have to fill in a consent form. It’s A4. It has all sorts of medical info on it. It even asks how far they can swim unaided, a skill which is unlikely to be needed when representing the school in a maths competition or reading stories to 6 year olds in the local primary school. We can be filling in one of these forms twice a month. If it’s a mild inconvenience for us as parents, what’s it like for teachers who have maybe 30 of them to collect for each class? Why can parents not fill in a standing consent with all the info which covers the whole year?

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Opinion: A radical, Liberal and localist alternative to NHS commissioning

nhs sign lrgLast week at Liberal Democrat Conference in Glasgow the party amicably and democratically settled one of its longest-running disagreements, about the way in which NHS services should be commissioned.

This is a subject Liberal Democrats need no introduction to. It has been a thorn in our side ever since Andrew Lansley first published his White Paper, “Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS” (2010), and culminated in Conference’s refusal to endorse the policy in Gateshead in 2012, instead neutering the so-called “Shirley Williams amendment”.

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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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Well, that rather blows a hole in the Yes campaign’s NHS claims, doesn’t it?

I don’t often use the word “lies” in politics. I save it for the most egregious examples of political dishonesty. One which has made me incredibly angry recently has been the Yes campaign’s utterly dishonest campaign on the NHS. They argued that a Yes vote was the only way to protect the NHS, saying that privatisation in England meant that there would be less in funding through the Barnett Formula. Preying on the fears of some of the most vulnerable people in our society is completely unacceptable.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has just, to put it mildly, proved the Yes campaign wrong. This is what they have to say:

Independence would give the Scottish government more freedom to set spending and tax policies. It would also, in principle, have more freedom to borrow. That freedom would be constrained by the size of the debt it would likely inherit and the willingness of markets to lend. On most plausible scenarios it is hard to see how an independent Scotland could “end austerity” in the short run. In work published this summer we showed how, on the basis of the independent OBR’s oil forecasts, an independent Scotland would likely still have a deficit of 2.9% of GDP (borrowing of about £800 per person in today’s terms) by 2018-19 even if it followed current UK government tax and spending plans – plans that are forecast to lead to the UK as a whole actually having a small budget surplus by the same year. In this case an independent Scotland would need to implement bigger spending cuts (or more tax rises) than the UK as a whole or try to borrow more. This means it would likely be harder rather than easier to protect the NHS.

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Opinion: If an NHS Tax is a step too far, let taxpayers make an optional “NHS Donation”

nhs sign lrgLiberal Democrats have committed to protecting the NHS Budget in the next Parliament. But over the next 6 years, we will need to fill a £30 billion deficit to maintain the level of quality we expect from our NHS. Social care faces a £7 billion shortfall.

There have been recent reports that senior party figures are looking at a hypothecated “NHS Tax”.

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LibLink: Norman Lamb – Supporting general practice

Norman LambThe GP magazine has run a piece by Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb on the party’s plans to support general practice.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Liberal Democrats are proud to have ringfenced health spending over the course of this Parliament. With an ageing population, and emerging medical challenges, such as the growth in long-term conditions, facing our health service it may be a given that protecting health spending is a sensible thing to do.

That was not, however, the case in 2010. The coalition has made sure that we have protected the health budget, but the Labour party said that this was irresponsible, and in Wales have cut the health budget by 8%. Sadly, on this crucial area there is simply not consensus.

When faced with these emerging challenges what is needed is to look at how we approach providing health care. We need big shifts in care: from repair to prevention, from fragmentation to integration, from impersonal to personal. That is why we are committed to providing better care, closer to home, and combining health and social care budgets. We also want to see more joined up care – hospitals working with GPs, district nurses and social care workers. There is also an opportunity to better utilise technology in our health service, but at the heart of any changes will be GPs.

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Let Kirsty Williams know your views on nursing levels in Wales

Kirsty Williams and Peter Black visit nursesWelsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has been on a mission for some time to ensure minimum nursing levels in Welsh hospitals. She explained on this site why this was important in a post in March this year.

Evidence is increasing from across the world on the positive impact that nurse staffing levels have on patient care and the recruitment and retention of staff. Nurses who have fewer patients to tend are able to spend a greater amount of time with each patient and as a result can provide better care. If they are more easily able to identify potential problems with a patient’s care, then they are able to play a preventative, rather than a simply reactive, role and consequently reduce the level of treatment needed and the cost of this care to the NHS. It also means better support for staff which leads to more manageable workloads, increased job satisfaction and reduced levels of stress or burnout.

Kirsty’s attempts to put staffing levels on a statutory footing has now reached the next stage. She has published a draft Bill and is currently running a consultation on it. You can access the Bill and the Consultation Document here.

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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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Rennie on the SNP’s “dishonest, desperate and disgraceful” NHS scaremongering

nhs sign lrgScottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie delivered a passionate speech yesterday setting out his positive arguments for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

A link to the whole speech is below, but he spent a bit of time rebutting some recent scaremongering by the SNP on the issue of the NHS:

And across the UK, few things unite people like our belief in the NHS.

Founded on the principles that it should meet the needs of everyone, that it should be free at the point of delivery, and that it should be based on clinical need not the ability to pay, it remains a source of pride in which each and every one of us has a stake.

These principles are unique and they are enduring.

For the Nationalists to claim that they are under threat is dishonest, desperate and disgraceful.

It is also factually wrong.

Despite the financial pressure of the global financial crisis, the NHS budget has been protected and NHS funding in England is now £12.7 billion higher than it was in 2010.

Private sector involvement in England’s NHS is paid for with public money, meaning that the cash equivalent is protected for Scotland – and the Scottish Government can spend it however they see fit.

The publicly-funded NHS was this year ranked best healthcare system across the 11 richest countries in the world – and we are determined to keep it that way.

But five weeks out from the independence referendum, and the SNP has suddenly started to pretend that funding is in doubt.

Standing on street corners, dripping poison about the NHS into the ears of passers bye is a sign of just how desperate they are becoming.

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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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NHS under pressure across whole UK – how do we fund the health service we need?

StethoscopeA clinical commissioning group in South Warwickshire was heavily criticised last week for suggesting that it might charge patients for use of mobility aids like crutches, walking sticks and neck braces.  A rather hyperbolic Guardian column screamed that this was the “first painful step towards the dismantling of the NHS” which seems a bit strange given that they’ve been telling us for the past two years that the NHS had been all but privatised anyway.

The furore over this idea made me think, though. While you don’t and never should …

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Norman Lamb: “As a Lib Dem, I want to eradicate gay conversion therapy”

Norman Lamb, Minister for Consumer AffairsNorman Lamb has told the Guardian that he will do all he can to eradicate referral to gay conversion therapy in NHS England:

Gay conversion therapy is abhorrent and has no place in a modern society, according to the health minister Norman Lamb, who has asked for assurances from NHS England that GPs do not make any referrals for such treatment.

photo by: bisgovuk
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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 …

photo by: NHSE
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Paul Burstow MP writes…Government makes concessions on Care Bill

nhs sign lrgOver the last week I have been working with 38 degrees who ran a strong campaign raising concerns about a key clause in the Care Bill that made changes to the way in which a hospital in serious financial or clinical trouble would be handled in the NHS.

Trust special administration (TSA) as it is known, was introduced by Labour in 2009.  It is a blunt process that should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances of financial or clinical failure.

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Kirsty Williams AM writes… An important step towards minimum nurse staffing levels in Wales

Today, the National Assembly for Wales voted to give me permission to bring forward a Private Members Bill to set minimum nurse staffing levels in law.

I believe this is necessary in Wales because we currently have the highest number of patients per nurse in the UK, which means that all too often our nurses are unable to give the time to perform their role to their highest caring ability.

Evidence is increasing from across the world on the positive impact that nurse staffing levels have on patient care and the recruitment and retention of staff. Nurses who have fewer patients to …

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Opinion: Let individuals control who uses their health information

Alongside pizza flyers and estate agent adverts, you may have received a leaflet on Care.data.

This April, GP surgeries were going to upload data from GP records onto a national HSCIC database – unless you opted-out. The leaflet had no opt-out form or Freepost return address.

If you don’t opt-out, medical data, including prescriptions and your conditions, will leave the surgery and go to HSCIC. HSCIC then centrally pseudo-anonymise it – removing your name. Your birthdate and postcode stays.

HSCIC’s own risk assessment warns patients could be identified if the pseudo-anonymised data was joined up with other easily-available data. And centrally …

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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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The Independent View: Clause 118 of the Social Care Bill must be defeated

nhs sign lrgIn the post-Lansley NHS the Secretary of State for Health no longer has the duty to provide a comprehensive health service. Such responsibility as remains has been handed to the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). CCGs do not have a responsibility for everyone in the neighbourhood – there is no universal state responsibility to provide us with healthcare any more – but they do at least have the responsibility for commissioning the care needed by their own registered patients.

The Clinical Commissioning Groups are about to be undermined.

When Jeremy Hunt, the current Secretary …

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Opinion: Managing the NHS

nhs sign lrgI agree with Norman Tebbit. There, I’ve said it. The antique rottweiler was writing in the Telegraph in response to a number of intemperate comments made on another column about the service received from staff at the NHS. He said, among other things, “when things go wrong, as they have often done in the NHS, I believe it is right to blame the officers, especially the more senior ones, rather than the troops”. I agree with him whole heartedly on that point, though not on …

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