Budgets for health and social care debate

14th March 2017

Philip Dunne responds to a Westminster Hall debate on the funding of health and social care and outlines extra funding being given to both the NHS and social care, and plans to bring forward a Green Paper on social care. 

I congratulate you on chairing this substantial debate so efficiently, Mr Bailey. Some 31 colleagues were present—that is a very high turnout for Westminster Hall—of whom 18 spoke, including three distinguished Select Committee Chairs and two Opposition spokesmen. Certainly I have not attended such a significant debate in Westminster Hall, and it reflects our common interest in ensuring that the NHS and social care services in this country provide as high-quality a service to the public as possible.

Virtually all speakers welcomed the developments in last week’s Budget, and I welcome that broad consensus across the Chamber. Only one discordant note was struck—reference was made to a march in the streets of London led by the shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). That march obviously demonstrated a degree of concern, but it happened before the Budget, which, as I shall touch on, responded to many of the concerns that have been raised.

We all recognise that the NHS faces a significant challenge, given the increasing demand for health services as a consequence of our ageing and growing population, new drugs and treatments, and safer staffing requirements, and that in turn is increasing the pressure on social care services. We know that finances are challenging for both areas, which is why we have ensured that spending on the NHS has increased as a proportion of total Government spending each year since 2010.

We backed the “Five Year Forward View” as part of the spending review in late 2015. That ensured that real-terms NHS funding will increase by £10 billion by 2020-21 compared with the year before the spending review. Some hon. Members said that they wanted to see a plan. We have supported the NHS’s own plan—the “Five Year Forward View”—and announced that we will publish a Green Paper this summer looking at how social care is funded in the long term, which hon. Members have welcomed, so it is churlish to deny that this Government are providing long-term strategic thinking about the way we fund both those services. I remind colleagues that the NHS budget was £98 billion in 2014-15 and will be £119.9 billion in 2020-21. That is a £21.8 billion increase in cash terms, which seems to get lost from time to time in these discussions.

We are almost at the end of the financial year. The NHS received a cash increase of more than £5 million in 2016-17. That was front-loaded, as NHS chief executive Simon Stevens requested. For the year that starts on 1 April, there will be another significant increase in funding once the mandate is settled. The hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth), who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, asked when we will see that document. It has to be published by the end of this month, and I assure her that it will be.

The measures announced last week, which many hon. Members referred to, have three features. I will not go into them in detail, because they have all been covered. Much of the focus has been on the additional £2 billion that we will provide for social care over the next three years, half of which will start to come in next month, when the new financial year begins.

Some hon. Members are aware of the numbers for their areas and some are not, and one colleague came up with a slightly incorrect figure. I will not go through every area, but I applaud the presence of Devon MPs in particular, given the manner in which they have massed themselves with colleagues from across the House. Devon will get a £30.3 million increase in its social care budget over the next three years and will receive half of that in the year that is about to start. My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) referred to an £18 million increase for North Yorkshire. I can give him a bit of good news: it will actually be £19.6 million over the next three years. I am grateful to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier), for her support for the Budget measures. Hackney will receive £12.8 million, as she acknowledged. Like many colleagues, she sought a long-term funding settlement.

 

rose

 

I am afraid I cannot take interventions, as we have very little time.

The spending review provided a settlement for the NHS. The Chancellor indicated that there will be a social care Green Paper this summer. Several colleagues called for a cross-party consensus. The Green Paper will provide an opportunity for debate and consultation, and such discussions should focus on that.

The second Budget measure was a £100 million increase in funding for A&E services, so that people who present at A&E who do not need intense or urgent care can be diverted to GPs or clinics run by nurse practitioners. That best practice has been proven to work in A&Es that have such a streaming service, so we are looking to provide facilities for basic capital spend to ensure that every A&E hospital across the country has streaming in place by next winter. I am pleased that that has been welcomed by hon. Members from across the House.

The third measure—this was touched on in the debate, albeit not in such detail—is the £325 million capital investment in the first set of sustainability and transformation plans. Those who make the strongest case for investment and can deliver better, more joined-up services, which can bring real improvements to patient care, will benefit from the funding. We look to that to be an exemplar for other areas whose plans are less well developed, to encourage them to develop a better, more integrated approach to patient care for the future, including closer working with local authorities for the provision of social care. That should encourage areas to bring forward more comprehensive plans for the next wave of STPs, which will be supported. As hon. Members have said, we look forward to explaining more about that at the time of the next Budget.

 

Will the Minister give way?

 

I am afraid I had better—

 

It will be very quick.

 

Okay, a very quick question.

 

Something that has been missing from the debate is the 6.5 million carers in the UK— 17,000 of them are in Portsmouth—who save costs of £132 billion a year. Will the Minister recognise that in the Green Paper and, in particular, respite care for them?

 

In the sustainability and transformation plans there is the opportunity for commissioners of care and health services to look holistically at the demands of the residents in their area, which to a degree includes palliative care and respite care. As we move towards an STP, there is a greater opportunity for those things to be considered as well.

 

I agree with the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond). There is a real dearth now and respite care for carers has got lost. With £120 million, 40,000 carers could be helped with a respite care break. The Minister should look at that.

 

As I just said, the STPs provide an opportunity for areas to place greater focus on respite care if they consider that to be required.

I would like to touch on the adequacy of the social care funding package. The announcement means that in the next three years councils will have access to some £9.25 billion of more dedicated funding. That includes extra money going to local authorities through the combination of the improved better care fund and the social care precept, which, for those councils introducing it with effect from next month, will raise some £1 billion extra. The £1 billion provided in the Budget and the £1 billion from the precept amount to the £2 billion called for by external sources for the coming year. That funding will allow councils to expand the numbers of people they are able to support and, in turn, address issues at the interface with the NHS such as delayed discharges from hospital, which as we know cause problems with patient flow through the system.

Questions were raised about how the social care funding is to be allocated. I inform colleagues that 90% will be allocated using the improved better care fund formula to local authorities that have responsibility for adult social care. That distribution takes account of the ability to raise money through the council tax precept for social care and means that it is well targeted at areas of greater need and market fragility. However, in recognition of the social care pressures faced by all councils, 10% of the funding will be allocated using the relative needs formula.

The response to the measures from external auditors reflects comments made by hon. Members today: they have been broadly welcomed. Of course, several hon. Members said that it is not enough, but that is a traditional response to any increase in money—it is always easier to say that it is not enough. Hon. Members have generally recognised that the Government have listened to concerns about social funding. Those of us with responsibility for the health service recognise that there has been a particular problem in dealing with delayed discharges from hospital. Through closer working in the sustainability and transformation plans as they are rolled out across the country, with local authorities working more closely with health service providers, we think that the money will provide a lifeline to help to remove some of those pressures and to improve patient flow through our hospitals.

I would like to touch on the medium-term challenge and how in the coming months we can try to use the development of a social care Green Paper to address the longer-term concerns. The Government are committed to establishing a fair and more sustainable basis for funding adult social care in the light of the future demographic challenges that the country faces. We will therefore bring forward proposals to put the state-funded system on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing, setting out plans in a Green Paper. Some hon. Members asked when the Green Paper will be published. If I was in charge of Government timetabling, I would be in a better position to answer. They will not be surprised to hear that I cannot give a definitive answer, but, to use traditional parliamentary language, it would be fair to say that it is expected to be published in the summer.

 

Will the Minister clarify the Government’s position on the idea of a posthumous levy on estates? The Chancellor ruled that out, yet we read in the newspapers that the Prime Minister slapped him down over that. Are the Government ruling it out or not?

 

I will not pre-empt anything in the Green Paper, and it is not for me to give the right hon. Gentleman any comfort on discussions that might or might not have happened around the Budget.

We recognise that the NHS and social care face huge pressures and that there is more for us as a Government to do. However, we can be confident that we have plans in place both to cope with the pressures that we currently face—winter, A&E pressures and delayed discharges—and to sustain the system for the future. We have a long-term plan in place through the “Five Year Forward View” and the efficiency work being undertaken and rolled out progressively this year. We have given extra funding to both the NHS and social care to support those plans, and we have plans to bring forward a Green Paper on social care. I am pleased that that was broadly welcomed and recognised by hon. Members and distinguished parliamentarians in the debate, and I am grateful for that support.

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