I am delighted that Norman Lamb has been reappointed as Lib Dem Health Spokes although he may soon be called to higher things!!
Amongst the wreckage of the Tory Manifesto which was not announced in the Queens Speech today there were a couple of things which pertain to my national spokes role on Health and Social Care at the LGA which I think are worthy of mention!
SOCIAL CARE PROPOSALS
Councils, the NHS, charities and care providers are united on the need for the Government to take urgent action to secure a sustainable funding solution for adult social care both now and in future years.
While the £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget by the previous government was a step in the right direction, adult social care is at a tipping point. The Government must now set out in detail its proposals at the earliest opportunity for how it will close the £2.3 billion funding gap by 2020, and provide the vital services not just for older people but all adults requiring support, including those with physical and learning disabilities, and mental illness. There is a massive staff turnover in the sector where pay is still poor given the demands of the job despite the creation of the national living wage. People need the certainty of the costs cap proposed by Andrew Dilnot and accepted by the Government in 2013 if families and councils can plan effectively for social care costs for individuals and communities.
This must also include consideration of how best to share the costs of social care fairly between the state and individual. The idea that we can continue to increase council tax, which is a very unfair tax, to meet the huge needs created by increased long-life is naïve. That is why the Liberal Democrats set out clearly at the General Election policy that we should increase income tax by 1% and that the £6.1 billion that would be raised would be shared fairly with social care and public health providers.
While this is difficult territory, local government and the Lib Dems stand ready and waiting to work with government to deliver a long-term sustainable funding solution for social care. Indeed Norman Lamb MP our health spokesperson has already tried to instigate the development of an all-party consensus on how to assure the long-term sustainability of the of health and café systems. Money alone is not the answer. There has been a 71% increase in real terms in NHS spending between the financial years 2004/2004 and 2015/2016 but no one thinks that our health is 71% better or that the NHS is performing 71% more efficiently.
Councils and Lib Dems are clear that all solutions must be on the table for discussion in the interests of securing the cross-party consensus that is needed to forge a way forward.”
MENTAL HEALTH REFORM
The mental wellbeing of our local communities is fundamental to a healthy and prosperous society and a new Draft Mental Health Bill provides an opportunity to prioritise this. We have seen in Liverpool that the CCG does not accord mental illness the same importance as physical illness. This is despite the very clear linkages between the two and the numerous reports which make clear that strong metal health leads to enhanced physical health for many people.
Additional funding for the NHS to tackle mental illness is clearly a good thing, but it is important to remember that councils have a significant role in addressing this as well.
Future money for mental health must explicitly include investment directed towards supporting the work councils do. Councils deliver a range of mental health services, such as providing a home and support for people who have received treatment for a mental health condition so they can move out of hospital, or helping people get active, stop smoking and cut down on drinking. Councils also provide services that help people recover, get back into work and that help their families and carers during difficult times.
Of course the work that we as councils do is not only in our housing, public health and social care roles. Everything that we do well from the provision of parks and libraries to the strategic provision of transport and the planning of effective and viable communities either helps or hinders health outputs and outcomes. Keeping the community healthy is the very raison d’etre for our existence.
Lib Dems are also pleased there will be a Green Paper on children’s mental health. Councils have been clear that we need a root and branch overhaul of children’s mental health services that ensures children get access to the right treatment at an early stage. This should also include talking about mental health at school to help children become resilient, reducing future need for mental health treatment.
Community based services can help keep children out of hospital and it is vital that specialist referral systems are also adequately funded to allow intensive counselling to children who need it.
Unless we all raise awareness to overcome the stigma associated with mental health issues and provide parents with information on how to discuss mental health with their children, then vulnerable youngsters may remain under the radar, causing lifelong damage and preventing them reaching their true potential.
Norman Lamb has been reappointed as Health Spokes (although he might move on to other things!) I have already met with him since the General Election to see how we can work together on the independent review of social and health care and the creation of a cross-party consensus on health. I look forward to working with him no matter which hat he is wearing and continuing my role within the LGA working with councillors from all Parties in a consensual way on these crucial issues which affect us all.
On a lighter (slightly) note I have been a very good boy! I actual did my bowel cancer screening test – don’t ask for details – and have got an all clear. I went last week for a blood test and followed it up with a trip to my GP. I know some will be disappointed but I have been signed off as in sound health for an old codger with perhaps a slight tendency to drink too much causing minor cholesterol problems. Don’t worry I will be delivering Focus for decades to come.
More seriously it is important that we all undertake the tests and screenings available to us. Not only does this save our health but it also saves the health service a fortune in acute care costs. Women are much better at doing this than men. Don’t be the strong silent type. That is a killer. Get on with it, get the rubber gloves out, do the tests and if there are problems they can be caught early and cheaply.
Here endeth the lesson!