Opinion: ‘Changes will improve people’s lives’

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 2:15 pm
Social care...

The government’s plan for health and social care is huge. It takes a bit of digestion to realise just how significant these changes will be. Many issues that I have written about in this column will now be addressed.

Some are problems that have been shirked for decades. Others are the immediate consequences of the pandemic. Both parts matter and both transform what we can achieve.

Increasing the tax on dividends (income from shares) and the new levy will raise £12 billion a year. For the first three years, this money will be used to tackle Covid backlogs and cut NHS waiting times.

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That’s £36 billion for the biggest catch-up programme in the history of the National Health Service. With the noughts included, it’s £36,000,000,000 to reduce waiting lists and prevent unacceptable delays to treatments.

We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge. The pandemic has left 5.5 million patients waiting for elective surgery and routine treatment in England alone. Left unchecked, this could reach 13 million patients by Christmas.

We need to act. We need to offer more GP appointments, operations and treatments. We also need to innovate with new practices that give patients the best possible care.

The catch-up programme will increase NHS capacity to 110% of its normal level. It’s expected to fund an additional nine million checks, scans and operations. And that £36 billion comes on top of the £34 billion annual increase already due by 2023.

These are huge numbers. They are bigger numbers than once, somewhat controversially, appeared on the side of a bus.

It was extraordinary to watch Labour MPs voting against this funding. They openly admit they have no alternative plan. Any claim they once had to be the party of the NHS has been trashed ... not by the Conservative government, but by Labour themselves.

Turning back to the government’s plan, once the catch-up programme has been funded, the money raised will be switched to social care. Reforming social care has been the elephant in the room.

Andrew Dilnot wrote his report about it 10 years ago. In 2017, Theresa May had another go and was left wishing she hadn’t. Reforming the adult social care system is a perilous task.

Yet it must be done and Boris has seized the nettle. His reform plan will end the unpredictable and catastrophic costs faced by people across the country.

It also provides the investment required to improve training and support.

Families shouldn’t live with the fear of losing everything they own, including a lifetime’s worth of savings. People shouldn’t be forced to sell their homes to pay for vast, unlimited, personal care bills.

Costs will finally be capped, making the system fairer for all. There will be help regardless of where you live, how old you are, what your condition is, or how much you happen to earn.

This was a tough decision. The plan involves a significant, long-term increase in public spending. I know it will involve some inevitable criticism.

But I am not prepared to leave people in Peterborough in pain, waiting for an NHS operation. Moreover, the stagnation on social care cannot continue.

I am confident this will 
directly improve people’s lives.