As we continue towards the journey back to normality and out of this pandemic, a big focus is going to need to continue to be on health and social care and how we provide services to service users both locally and nationally. One such way in which long term structural change will be enacted is through the forthcoming Health & Care Bill, which we expect to see in the next couple of weeks.
The founding principles of the NHS – taxpayer-funded healthcare available to all, cradle-to-grave, and free at the point of delivery – remain as relevant now as they were in 1948. Local government delivery is also rooted in firm foundations: in serving its residents, with strong local democratic accountability, and expertise in the health, public health and care needs of its populations. To protect these principles, which are so close to all our hearts, we must back those who make them a reality every day of their lives - by building and constantly renewing a culture of collaboration.
Therefore, the proposed package of legislation to deliver integrated world-class health and care is extremely welcome, but I believe that a number of issues were missed. Firstly, I believe that mental health clearly must have parity of esteem with physical health, something that must be reflected in the new ICS structures. I will be looking to get these measures included in the Bill, be it through conversations with Ministers or amendments.
Likewise, it is crucial that we don’t make changes for changes sake and that these reforms have a positive impact, unlike some of the Lansley reforms. Empowering local systems and communities to provide services that best suit their local communities is great but it has to provide meaningful room to do so. Fundamentally, these reforms are supposed to increase integration between health and social care and also empower local communities. This is very welcome, if implemented properly.
As I wrote in a previous column, I was astounded that not only do we not measure waiting times for Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), but the Government has no plans to do so. This is despite longstanding concerns about waiting times for children getting access to mental health support. Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a Westminster Hall Debate focusing on children’s mental health and asked the Minister about this very issue. I was disappointed to receive a pretty non-committal answer from the Minister, who appeared to minimise the impact that the pandemic had on mental health.
It is crucial that we find ways of measuring mental health outcomes to hold the Government and NHS to account. We need to measure more than the amount of money going into the system. We need to know people are getting diagnosed earlier, treated earlier – and finally getting better as a result! I am currently working with providers on ways of measuring mental health outcomes to find the right metrics. What gets measured – gets done!
As a result of the pandemic, the number of face-to-face medical appointments has been reduced which has invariably led to delays in people seeking or receiving treatment. Whilst at certain points this has been completely understandable, it is crucial that GPs and other services are now opening back up again to be able to see patients face-to-face. Whilst it is great to have the option of a phone consultation, it is critical that the option of an in-person appointment is available for those who require one.
NHS 111 service is available 24/7 to provide advice, treatment and care. Just ring 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk and the service will provide advice and refer you to another service if you need it. If you need to be seen in person, they can book you a time slot.
If you would like to book a virtual surgery call or raise a specific issue, please call my office on 01626 368277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an appointment.