Along with around 100 other MPs from across the political spectrum, I signed an open letter to the Prime Minister last week calling for a Parliamentary Commission to look at the future of the NHS, social care and public health.
Coordinated by Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health Select Committee, this letter has been signed by the chairs of 21 Parliamentary select committees along with senior backbenchers from all parties. We are asking the Prime Minister to set up a cross-party Commission to look at the way forward. There is precedent for this, for example the Banking Commission that was set up in the wake of the Libor scandal which commanded the support of both front benches and drew on considerable cross-party expertise.
I know from my inbox how much health and social care matter to people and I also know that with rising demand and increasing costs we can’t just go on as we are. A growing number agree that the most sensible way forward is to try and break the political deadlock that has prevented a realistic approach to addressing the current situation and to tackling the challenges of the future.
The 70th anniversary of the NHS seems a good time to seek a consensus. A new Commission could look at the likely scale of demand in the future; the advantages of a single budget for health and social care; the options for prevention; the net cost to the taxpayer and the options for future funding including some sort of hypothecated tax or contribution. There is a Green Paper due out this summer but this will focus solely on the issue of funding social care for older people and there is concern that this on its own won’t make the necessary progress. As an issue Health creates much froth and fury but in reality there is much more agreement across politics than most people believe. We have huge challenges to face in the coming years and so, on an issue as important as this, we need to work together to find solutions that are fit for the future.