MPs call for cross-party commission to solve NHS crisis

The i - 26 Mar 2018

Theresa May faces calls from almost 100 MPs to establish a cross-party commission to solve the crisis in NHS and social care.

The move is an attempt to break the “political deadlock” that has blocked repeated attempts to decide how to organise and fund services to cope with Britain’s ageing population.

Signatories to the letter calling for a parliamentary commission include 21 select committee chairmen and 30 former ministers, and the move has the support of a former Treasury mandarin.

Health Select Committee chairwoman Sarah Wollaston 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.”

A parliamentary commission would involve a cross-party group of MPs and peers looking at the issue – in the same way measures to reform the banking system were examined in the years following the financial crash.

Dr Wollaston said: “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.”

Tory Dr Wollaston co-ordinated the letter with fellow select committee chairmen Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb and Labour’s Frank Field. Also involved were former shadow care minister Liz Kendall and ex-Treasury permanent secretary Lord Macpherson of Earl’s Court.

Mr Lamb, care minister in the coalition government, said: “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 letter said “system-wide pressures” over recent weeks could not be wholly blamed on flu and the cold snap, but “reflect more serious underlying issues facing the NHS, public health and social care”.

The MPs say they are “seriously worried” that the Government’s promised green paper on social care will fail to make progress and instead called for an approach examining the system as a whole.

They warned: “Without action, patients will experience a serious further decline in services and the blame for that will be laid squarely at the door of politicians.”

Mr Lamb said the commission should consider the case for a ring-fenced NHS tax. Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt has acknowledged such a move could enjoy public support as part of the effort to find more cash for the system.

He said people “would be prepared to see some of their own taxes going into the NHS” but they “want to know that money is actually going into the NHS and social care system”.

On ITV’s Peston on Sunday, he said: “We are a taxpayer-funded system, so in the end if we’re going to get more resources into the NHS and social care system, it will have to come through the tax system and also through growth in the economy.”

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has called for a “whole system approach” to address “serious underlying issues” facing the NHS, public health and social care. Ms Wollaston posted a copy of a letter – addressed to Prime Minister Theresa May and signed by 98 MPs – which calls for the Government to act with urgency in finding a solution, and suggests a Parliamentary Commission be established.

She tweeted: “We need a whole system approach to NHS, Social Care & Public Health funding that looks at what it needs now & into the long term, and that actually delivers it.”

Paul Gallagher, The i