Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister Norman Lamb has organised a cross-party group of 90 MPs, including select committee chairs and former cabinet ministers, to write to the prime minister urging the government to establish an NHS and Care Convention to find a sustainable long-term settlement for these services.
The call has been backed by a high-profile group of 15 committee chairs, 22 former ministers, six former secretaries of state, and several prominent ex-shadow ministers and select committee members. The Convention would work on a cross-party basis, engaging with the public and the health and care workforce, to confront the mounting pressures in the system arising from an older population and growing demand for healthcare.
Ahead of the Autumn Budget on Wednesday, the MPs are urging the government to address the short-term challenges in the system, as well as endorsing the proposal for a cross-party approach to put these services on a stable long-term footing.
The initiative has been led by former Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb, the Conservative Chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr. Sarah Wollaston, and Labour’s former Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall.
It follows a meeting between the prime minister and a group of Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem MPs last February, in which Mrs May agreed to a discussion on the proposal with her advisors. However, the plans were interrupted by the General Election and no further progress has been made.
Since then, there have been further reports of patients and older people being let down by longer waiting times for treatment, unmet care needs, and pressure on mental health budgets, while the Care Quality Commission recently warned that the health and care system is “straining at the seams”.
Efforts to confront the long-standing funding challenges in health and care have been undermined by conventional party politics. In signing up to the letter, the group of MPs are putting forward a genuine and constructive offer to the prime minister to assist in finding an agreed way forward to avoid more people missing out on vital care and support.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrats MP for North Norfolk and Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:
“Tribal politics has failed to provide a solution to the existential challenges facing the NHS and social care. We know that the current situation is unsustainable, and these pressures will only get worse as we contend with an ageing population and rising demand for care and treatment.
“This letter shows the strength of cross-party support for a new approach based on co-operation instead of political point-scoring. The fact that so many senior MPs and former cabinet ministers support this initiative is remarkable. Now the Government must act on it.”
Dr. Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes and Chair of the Health Select Committee, said:
“The funding and workforce challenges facing our NHS and social care services are immense. Finding a long term, sustainable solution must be raised up the government’s domestic agenda. The public want to see this resolved and this letter demonstrates the willingness of politicians to work constructively across party lines to make it happen.
“I hope the Prime Minister will welcome this opportunity to build a consensus and deliver a long term solution for both the NHS and social care.”
Leicester West MP Liz Kendall, former Shadow Care Minister, said:
“Our population is ageing, more people need help and support and our care services desperately need more money to cope, yet any party that comes up with a significant proposal for funding social care risks their political opponents destroying them.
“We could carry on like this for yet another parliament, and yet another election, or we could face up to reality: we will only get lasting change if we secure a cross-party approach.”