Norman Lamb’s speech in health debate at Liberal Democrat Conference

Here s Norman Lamb’s speech from this afternoon’s health debate:

First, we condemn Theresa May for her refusal to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working in our NHS and care services to stay in this country.

We value the vital contribution you make.

We demand that their right is guaranteed.

The Budget completely failed to address the dire financial situation facing the NHS and care.

Whatever your politics, it makes no sense to spend a reducing share of our national income on the NHS as demand rises at 4% every year

Whatever your politics, it makes no sense that in 2018/19 spending per head in real terms will actually fall as pressures grow

Whatever your politics, surely we can’t tolerate over a million older people with care needs left unmet.

Yet this is the reality today.

And it’s not just numbers or statistics – it’s the impact on people which is so disturbing. There are real consequences for families up and down our country.

This is what the brilliant charity, Young Minds, reports from its Parents’ Helpline:

‘The helpline receives calls every day from parents who are desperately trying to get support from Children’s Mental Health Services. We regularly hear from parents who can’t even get a referral or who have been waiting months for an initial assessment and whose children’s conditions have got worse during that time. Children who have started to self harm or become suicidal during the wait – or who’ve dropped out of school, which not only has a big impact on their own education but also means that one of the parents has to give up their job to look after them.

We hear from parents who’ve separated because of the pressure the wait is putting on the whole family.’

This in OUR NHS. It’s shameful.

The man in North Norfolk told that the waiting time for the adult ADHD clinic is two years. What’s he supposed to do in the meantime?

People waiting in a state of acute anxiety for a cancer operation which is delayed beyond the standard maximum 62 days from referral to treatment. Across the country, this standard is no longer being met.

Or the missed ambulance response times for patients in life or death situations, the record numbers of delayed discharges – frail older people stuck in hospital becoming more dependent.

A system under impossible pressure.

The awful truth is that failures of care are becoming commonplace – at a time when the Secretary of State claims that he wants the NHS to be the safest health system in the world.

And here’s the really insidious trend. More and more people, who have the funds, are opting out, fast-tracking treatment by paying privately. And who can blame them. You do what you can for your family.

But how can we tolerate a situation where those with money can get speedy access to treatment whilst those without are left waiting. This totally undermines the solidarity of which we are all proud, that belief that in this country, you get access to treatment regardless of your ability to pay.

And just look at how we have fallen behind other European countries in how much we spend on healthcare. Germany and France spend more than we do.

Watch how the Tories self-righteously condemn other countries for falling short of the golden 2% share of GDP spent on defence – an international benchmark, yet seem not to care when we fall so badly behind on health spending?

We can’t carry on letting people down. We are the sixth largest economy in the world. Surely we are capable of doing better than this?

So the Lib Dems will lead the way, showing how we can give hope to patients and to the remarkable workforce in the NHS and in care services.

I pay tribute to the work carried out by the independent expert panel. I thank them for guiding us. Their interim report is powerful.

An OBR for Health – an independent assessment of the amount of money needed to deliver a modern and effective health and care system – taking it out of the hands of politicians, restoring people’s trust.

And three options for providing sustainable funding.

I have been clear that I am immensely attracted to their third option – a dedicated NHS and Care Tax, shown on your pay packet, fair between generations and progressive.

And until such a tax could be implemented, we have to find a credible way of funding the necessary increased investment.

I want us to consider a penny on income tax to help guarantee that our loved ones get the care they need, in their hour of need. But we must be smart on how that extra money is spent. As our expert panel has proposed, extra investment must be focused on out of hospital care and social care. We must champion PREVENTION of ill health, investing in PUBLIC HEALTH – so stupidly cut by the Tories.

And we must invest more in mental health to end the injustice suffered by those with mental ill health.

So Liberal Democrats will lead the way in coming up with solutions for the big challenges we face.

But there is real urgency about the crisis we face. That’s why I have brought together Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem MPs to call for the Prime Minister to establish an NHS and Care Convention.

It was a great Liberal, William Beveridge, who proposed the NHS.

Now, as we approach it’s 70th year, the NHS is in desperate need of renewal.

Today’s Liberal party – the Liberal Democrats – must meet that challenge. We must lead the way.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “Whatever your politics, it makes no sense to spend a reducing share of our national income on the NHS as demand rises at 4% every year

    Whatever your politics, it makes no sense that in 2018/19 spending per head in real terms will actually fall as pressures grow”

    Presenting this as “whatever your politics” is really bad thinking. is Norman saying that the NHS budget is just going to increase, above inflation, above growth, above rises in tax revenues not matter what. A hypothecated tax is a fair argument – but it doesn’t in and of itself address the need for increased spending.

    At the 2015 election the Lib Dems were going to increase the NHS budget by £8bn. Now two years on they are talking about raising taxes to provide another c.£4bn. So where will the next extra £4-6-8bn come from.

    There isn’t anything in Norman’s speech about reducing demand – though the main focus for this would be joining up care and health services. Ultimately though these are the same people who need looking after so the scope cutting overall demand (aka cost) is going to be limited.

    An independent review is absolutely the way to go – but we were kind of here before the election with the NHS doing a wide-scale review on the future funding needs of the NHS (coming up with the £4bn figure)

    That review also needs to look at alternative healthcare models. Norman does seem to be opening the door to this saying that the party needs to be audacious in policy terms and that it is an “uncomfortable truth” that European social insurance models have kept better pace with demand.

    But to do that would need a change of attitude and a recognition that there are other alternative between the UK NHS model and a US “get your credit card out before you walk through the hospital door” type private funding.

  • Hywel,

    You have two options. One provide universal health care or make individuals pay for their own. If you believe in universal healthcare well that costs and you can pay it by direct taxation or by stealth taxes which is what an insurance system will become. If you believe it’s everyone for themselves then personal insurance is fine; personally I don’t. Either way to get an adequate health system that works for you, you will pay more.

  • Hywell; I very much agree with this, there have been a number of MP’s finally beginning to realise that health care cannot continue to be funded in the way it has been.
    There are a number of European social insurance models that would merit close study. When finding health care is discussed many MP’s rush to decry the fact that most
    European countries spend more per head of population on healthcare than we do in the U.K. What they don’t shout about is the fact that a significant amount of that spending is not government funded.
    Raising income tax by 1p in the pound raises about one billion pounds. Howl much do people suggest should be raised by tax increases? It’s way past time for that difficult discussion on the future of health funding and the Ñ.H.S.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 19th Mar '17 - 8:16pm

    As ever , Norman talks sense, as does Tynan above ,and often.

    Health care in our country is a catastrophe solveable. Norman is too nice , when NICE is anything but !

  • “You have two options. One provide universal health care or make individuals pay for their own.”

    France, Germany and New Zealand all have universal healthcare systems on slightly different models. It’s precisely this type of framing of the debate I was talking about.

    “Raising income tax by 1p in the pound raises about one billion pounds.”

    Way more than that AIUI – I think its more like £4bn

  • Thanks Lorenzo, likewise.

    Hywell, l think you are right on howl much 1p on income tax raises. So much for quoting former MP’s statements on Question Time. A school boy error, the M.P’s name will be protected to spare any blushes.
    I think we agree though that, regardless of any tax increases, the time has come to at least have an honest appraisal as to whether the current health care funding model can continue.

  • To be fair to Norman Lamb he did specifically say that raising £4.6B via 1p on Income Tax would be an urgent stop gap while trying to get Cross Party consensus on a way forward.

    The only way forward is more money, so the only question is how you provide it -less equitable indirect/stealth taxes/personal payment etc or equitable general taxation.

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