Health and Social Care

The NHS was founded more than 70 years ago by a Labour Government committed to delivering transformative policies and building a society which worked for all.  It is Labour’s proudest achievement and means that all of us live day to day with the peace of mind that if we or a loved one falls ill we will receive the care and treatment we need free at the point of delivery. Yet after nine years of austerity under the Tories and Lib-Dems, the NHS is increasingly struggling to provide the essential services we all rely upon. A&E waiting times are now at their worst level since records began; there is an ever-growing shortage of doctors, nurses and other health professionals; increasing waiting lists for essential, life-saving treatments; a social care crisis forcing older people to sell their homes to fund basic care; and hospital buildings and equipment which are outdated and crumbling. Our health service deserves better than this and I am fighting for urgent reforms to secure its future.

Helen and local Labour councillors supporting our NHS

Hospitals across the country are having to pay more to provide essential services without any significant increase in funding from central government. Nine years of cuts and the biggest financial squeeze in its history has pushed the NHS to the brink and it is patients and staff who are paying the price. Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of £850 million was money which the Conservatives had previously held back from the NHS and not a penny of this funding is being offered to our NHS in Dulwich and West Norwood.

I have repeatedly called for a long-term investment plan for the NHS and social care sector, funded by increasing taxation on the very wealthiest in society. The Labour Party is committed to investing an extra £37 billion into the NHS by increasing income tax for the top 5% of earners.

Helen supporting the junior doctors strike

Nine years of austerity has decimated our local health services. In 2010 before the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government King’s College Hospital (KCH) had a balanced budget and made a small surplus each year. KCH has faced significant funding pressures since the Government’s 2010 decision to limit NHS annual budget rises to 1% a year causing the hospital to record an annual deficit in excess of £180m last year. This has left the trust in financial special measures, with a debt of more than £500 million, the highest deficit and debt of any hospital in the UK ever.

The Government’s recent announcement of plan to finally release £850 million previously held back from NHS hospitals offered not a single penny for King’s. I have repeatedly called for a long-term investment plan for the NHS and social care sector, funded by increasing taxation on the very wealthiest in society. I regular meet with the CEO of KCH to discuss the impact of Government policy on the hospital and I raise the plight of our local hospital in Parliament. I have joined many protests locally to campaign for a better financial settlement for our NHS and for King’s and the Maudsley locally.

I have also been working to support facilities management staff at King’s challenging a threat to privatise their services. When I met with staff and representatives from Unite and Unison, they raised serious concerns about the impact on their wages, contractual terms and management arrangements, but most importantly no longer being a part of the NHS family. I have written to the CEO and Chair of the Board on several occasions to oppose this proposal. I am delighted that King’s has decided to drop this plan and facilities management staff will remain employed by the NHS.

After years of underfunding, mental health services are in urgent need of investment. The Government has repeatedly promised to give mental health the same priority as physical health, yet there are 4,500 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010 and a review of the MHS Five Year Forward View has found that money intended for mental health services has been used to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS. More must be done to achieve true parity of esteem between mental and physical health

If the Government is to be taken seriously on how it supports people who suffer from mental health problems, I believe it must increase spending on these services, ring-fence budgets and ensure children and young people have access to a counselling service in every secondary school. I have led a debate in Parliament on young people’s mental health and raise mental health regularly in the House of Commons. The Labour Party has committed to all of these necessary reforms and I will continue to campaign for their urgent implementation.

An estimated 1.4 million people in the UK have unmet social care needs. This leaves vulnerable elderly people and people with long-term conditions without the support they need live comfortably and denies them their dignity. Too often this unmet need will lead to increased conditions unnecessarily forcing people out of their homes and communities and into hospitals and residential settings.

At a time when the social care system is close to collapse, the Government is continuing to avoid any meaningful action. The Social Care Green Paper, which should set out plans for a long-term sustainable funding settlement for social care, has been repeatedly delayed prolonging uncertainty for the sector. I have repeatedly called on the Government to lay this green paper before the house without further delay.

The Housing, Communities, and Local Government Select Committee, of which I am a member, undertook an inquiry on social care in the last Parliament which concluded that social care in the UK is underfunded and has recently published another inquiry on the long-term funding of social care, jointly with the Health Select Committee. Over a year later, we are still awaiting the Government’s response. You can learn more about this enquiry here.

I have been working with residents of Dulwich and West Norwood to campaign for better community provision for autistic people and people with learning difficulties. Scandals such as at Whorlton Hall Hospital and Winterbourne View have demonstrated the total inappropriateness of long term secure hospitals for people with learning disabilities and autistic people. I have met with families who have first hand experience of loved ones being forced into secure hospitals, often in the private sector, where they are subsequently abused and neglected. I recently worked with autistic people and their families to organise a large lobby of MPs in Parliament to campaign for a commitment to delivering #HomesNotHospitals.

For the majority of autistic people and people with learning disabilities, hospitals are an entirely inappropriate environment, and they should be supported to live in community settings, with specialist care and support. The Government’s Transforming Care programme, introduced in the wake of the Winterbourne View scandal, aimed to achieve exactly that, but it is failed and eight years later an estimated 2,245 people are still living in in-patient units. I have been calling on the Government to invest in fully regulated, high quality community provision to replace in-patient settings for autistic people and people with learning disabilities and publish a detailed plan for the completion of Transforming Care.