A cross party group of 98 MPs including 21 select committee chairs and 30 former ministers from both sides of the Commons, has written to the Prime Minister calling on her to set up a Parliamentary Commission on Health and Social Care.
The Commission, in effect a special select committee of both Houses of Parliament, could take an independent, cross Party approach to an issue of national importance and help to break the political deadlock that has prevented a realistic approach to increasing resources for health and social care. Modelled on the Banking Commission that was set up in the wake of the Libor scandal, a Parliamentary Commission on Health and Social Care could draw on cross Party and outside expertise, engage with the public, and report back more swiftly than a Royal Commission. It could examine current demand and funding needs but also take a long term view, including the value of improving prevention in order to improve wellbeing and reduce future costs.
The letter reflects parliamentarians’ growing determination to take a whole-system approach to the pressures which have left the NHS, social care and public health struggling to cope with demand. Writing that their constituents cannot afford another policy failure on social care or health, MPs propose that the Commission report by Easter 2019.
Working across party lines, the letter was coordinated by select committee chairs Dr Sarah Wollaston, Norman Lamb and Frank Field, and former ministers Liz Kendall and Nick Boles as well as the former permanent secretary to the Treasury, Lord Macpherson of Earl’s Court.
Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes and chair of the Health & Social Care and Liaison Committees said:
“We call on the government to act with urgency and to take a whole system approach to the funding of the NHS, social care and public health. On behalf of all those who rely on services, we need to break down the political barriers and to agree a way forward.
We are calling on the Prime Minister to set up a cross Party Parliamentary Commission of both Houses of Parliament. We believe this is the best way to examine what funding is needed both now and into the long term and to seek a consensus on the options for sharing the costs. This year we mark the 70th anniversary of our NHS and we believe that the public want their vital health and care services to be given the funding needed to meet rising demand.”
MP for Plymouth Moor View and Health Select Committee member, Johnny Mercer, said:
“For some time it has been clear to me that we must improve on and abolish the level of toxicity and politicisation around the NHS debate. It is only with a cross-party, open and honest approach that we will be able to develop a health system fit for this country’s future.
“I welcome the announcement from the Prime Minister on a long-term funding deal for the NHS but we must continue to make in-roads that help to create a long term sustainable health system. This year marks the 70th birthday of the NHS, we must not lose this opportunity to mark a turning point in how we debate health.”
Former Shadow Minister for Care and Older People and MP for Leicester West, Liz Kendall, said
“Time and time again we’ve seen how any Party that comes up with a substantial proposal for funding social care risks being obliterated by their political opponents. But in the end the only people who really suffer are older and disabled people and their families.
“The public knows we will have to pay more for the NHS and social care, and the strength of feeling in the country is reflected by the breadth of commitment to tackling this issue in Parliament.
“The Prime Minister should seize this opportunity, have the courage to set up a Parliamentary Commission, and provide the leadership our care services desperately need.”
Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, Minister for Care and Support in the Coalition Government and chair of the Science and Technology select committee said:
“Politicians and the public are not prepared to tolerate the steady deterioration of the NHS and social care, which is increasingly putting access to healthcare and patient safety at risk. We need a fundamental review of health and care funding in order to safeguard the quality of these services in the longer-term and to finally deliver equal access to treatment for those who suffer from mental ill-health. This will inevitably involve difficult choices which no political party has been prepared to make.
“The Government should grasp the opportunity to act in the national interest by setting up a Parliamentary Commission to confront these challenges on a collaborative basis. I am keen that the proposed commission should explore the case for a hypothecated NHS and Care Tax or Contribution. If we combined this with a periodic independent assessment of how much cash the system needs, then I think we could build public confidence and achieve sustainable funding of the NHS and the care system.”
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