Health and Care Bill

Baroness Pitkeathley Excerpts
Thursday 20th January 2022

(4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab)
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My Lords, it is clear from the number of noble Lords wishing to speak in this debate that this group of amendments is extremely important. I want to speak particularly in favour of the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, about integration, which she put before us so eloquently.

In the 40-odd years that I have been working on these issues, I have never heard anyone say anything other than that collaboration would be a lot better than the current situation and that collaboration between health and social care is absolutely vital. Everyone always says that, and in recent years we even have had the hope that, when the Department of Health changed its name to the Department of Health and Social Care, we would begin to see more movements towards integration. Sadly, little progress has been made.

If one asks any patient about integration between health and social care, they think that it already exists. Most patients have absolutely no idea about different jurisdictions, how one sorts out a medical bath from a social bath or how different pots of funding ensure different points of view. That is, of course, until the patients start to find their way around the system in the way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, brought so amusingly to mind. The lack of incentives to integration in the Bill are disappointing. I have not seen anything in it that will stop 15-minute visits by overworked and underpaid care staff or any ideas about integrating services and having much better integrated budgets—still less about data sharing. Those are all the things that we need if we are truly going to move to proper integration.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, reminded us, at a time when waiting lists for the NHS are growing longer by the minute, should it not be a priority to ensure that no one stays in hospital longer than they have to by having discharge procedures that provide a seamless transition and making sure that the all-too-frequent readmission because of inadequate co-operation between the NHS and local authorities does not happen? We hear that care jobs are unfulfilled and that requests for care are turned down because of staff shortages. Local authorities struggle to recruit enough workers to meet increasing demands. No wonder that that is the case when one can earn more by filling shelves at Sainsbury’s.

A truly integrated service would mean that, the minute that someone is admitted to hospital, plans should be being made between health services, social care and the often-ignored but often significant voluntary services about what is going to happen on discharge. Sadly, the usual pattern is for a conflict to emerge, usually on a Friday afternoon, between a hospital ward desperate to empty beds and social care services inadequately prepared or even informed. What happens? The person goes home, the care services are not adequate and so the person is readmitted to hospital. I know someone in my local area in Herefordshire, an elderly lady who has been admitted 14 separate times since last July, and still care services to keep her adequately at home are not provided.

The Bill is a failed opportunity because we are seeing social care once again as the poor relation, the tail-end Charlie, that is considered after everything else is settled. Social care could be at the heart of a levelling-up agenda if we had a vision for its workforce and the impact that it has on the health of a community in the broadest sense. Care providers could be encouraged to diversify their businesses to reach out creatively into the community by providing tax incentives, for example, or reductions on business rates. If we want a high-skill, high-wage economy, what better place to start than social care, with its huge workforce badly paid but certainly not unskilled? Those skills could be developed by providing training, and retention could be dealt with by better career progression and recognition of qualifications. It is sad that we are not looking at practical ways in which to develop that integration in the Bill.

Fixing social care requires two things: money and better integration. We will come on to money later in the Bill. For the moment, I hope that the Government will give proper recognition of and acceptance to the amendment on integration in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins.

Lord Warner Portrait Lord Warner (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak briefly in support of the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. I had intended to put my name to them; I apologise to the noble Baroness for being so slow off the mark. I also strongly support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Layard.

Both these amendments, in their different ways, go some way to righting what I consider to be two big wrongs inflicted on local government in the past, where responsibilities have been transferred to it but have not had their funding sustained into the future. The first was the closure of long-stay hospitals in the 1980s and 1990s. When I was a director of social services, I was the NHS’s favourite person when building provision and making available services for people coming out of long-stay hospitals. After a few years, I and my many colleagues became forgotten men and women because the money that was transferred was never maintained in real terms over a couple of decades.

Fast-forward to the 1990s and the setting up, with much enthusiasm, of the Roy Griffiths community care changes. These enabled the Government to get off the hook of an expanding social security budget. It was another repeat performance: the money was not maintained in real terms in the longer term. What we saw in both cases was local government having to pick up the tab without support from the Government—successive Governments, that is; I am not making a party-political point—to ensure that those services could be maintained for the people who became the responsibility of local government.

The amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, remind people that there is an obligation to make sure that both health and social care produce good outcomes for the people who are now primarily the responsibility of local government, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, gently reminded us, has been underfunded over a long time in terms of maintaining these services. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Layard, is another righting of a wrong and we should all get behind it.

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Amendments 57 and 58 not moved.
Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Pitkeathley) (Lab)
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Before I call the next amendment, I remind your Lordships that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, is taking part remotely.

Amendment 59

Moved by
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I strongly support this group of amendments. I would like to make sure that we realise that the medical humanities as a discipline have now been introduced in many medical schools. In my own, I was rather glad that AJ Cronin’s book The Citadel was introduced in general practice, particularly because, of course, he invented Dr Finlay, but there we are.

Quite seriously, we must not forget that loneliness kills. Loneliness is a true killer; it shortens lives. If people are not moving around well, they fall more and consume healthcare resources. Therefore, having green spaces and things such as sports for health, and so on is important. There is now also a body of evidence that the new intensive care units have used in the way that they are constructed, so that there is a view of outside spaces for those patients, rather than the total sensory deprivation that occurs to them in the very noisy and difficult environment of intensive care. Of course, music is used therapeutically during procedures and so on.

In the hospice world, lots of activities obviously go on in the day centres. As my noble friend Lady Greengross said, there is now good evidence for proper physiological mechanisms that explain why contact with these different disciplines—which were considered to be outside medicine—have a beneficial effect on healing, coping with pain and distress, resolving issues, reframing what is happening to you and so on.

I would like us not to forget that loneliness kills. Importantly, so many patients have said that they have a sense of personal worth when they are still able—however ill they are—to contribute to those around them and to a sense of community. These amendments go to the very heart of being human—that is, the inherent creativity within people that has been forgotten for decades in the provision of health and social care.

I can see that there are difficulties in bringing this into the Bill, but we should commend the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, for the sophisticated way in which he has worded some of these amendments. I hope that they can be built on as we go forward. This could save a huge amount of money for the NHS in the longer term. A huge number of side-effects of drugs could be avoided. People could be fitter. There would be fewer forms. There is a great amount of optimism behind these amendments.

Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab)
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My Lords, what I want to say follows on very well from what the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said. I want to quote Sir Michael Marmot. He said:

“We need to adopt a health and social care system which prioritises not just the treatment of illness but how it can be prevented in the first place. The pandemic has made it crystal clear … why public health and … social determinants of health are so important. The health and social care agenda must be rebalanced towards prevention.”

This is essentially what the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, is saying. It is not just about the treatment of illness but about preventing it happening in the first place.

I commend my own general practice in north London. In despair at the quantity of antidepressants being prescribed with very little result, it took to organising community groups to do cooking, set up friendship groups and put people in contact with each other. It puts on bring and buy sales—all with people who, perhaps, in the past, might just have been prescribed antidepressants.

I want to say a word about the charitable aspect—the voluntary sector—to which the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, referred. Charities cannot operate unless their core costs are met. My own GP practice which did this wonderful work had to go to the local authority and to the lottery to seek some funding. We have to remember that, if we want voluntary organisations to participate in these wonderful preventive services, we need to ensure that they are properly funded.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I join pretty much everyone else in commending the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, for tabling these amendments. I have attached my name to Amendment 67, although it could have been to any of them.

It is worth making two broad points. In her wonderful contribution on the last group, the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, used the really key phrase,

“the community provided the health”.

That is what this group of amendments is talking about.

A couple of groups back, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, talked about how, if the health system is working for people with learning disabilities, it is working for everybody. If we bring in the kind of institutions, frameworks and supports that we are talking about here—if we think about stopping people getting ill and caring for ill people—we will make our communities vastly better for everybody. This is an important point to make.

Like most noble Lords, I could come up with a list as long as your arm of wonderful places I have visited. I will not, but I will mention one, which brings together three elements of this: creativity, nature and culture. The Green Backyard in Peterborough is the most wonderful space. I defy anyone to walk into it and not smile. It has amazing, colourful, moving sculptures powered by water, with food growing—amazing salads filled with flowers. When I visited, I spoke to the carer of another visitor. This visitor had very profound disabilities—she was blind and non-verbal—but her carer said, “I’ve never seen anything like it. After the first time we came to visit, the next Monday, which she knew was the day we visited, she was all packed up, dressed and ready to go out.” This was obviously catering to someone’s needs absolutely brilliantly, but it nearly got bulldozed and turned into a block of flats a few years ago. Luckily, it was saved, but that is the situation we so often find ourselves in.

I also want to mention Amendment 90, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. The noble Lord, Lord Best, has already said a great deal on this, so I will seek to add just a couple of small points—well, one small point and one quite big one. There is something called the lifetime homes standard, which I learned about when I visited Derwenthorpe in York with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The thing I remember about it, because it was so simple and obvious, was that the two-storey houses there had all been built with a space between the joists so that, if you needed to put a lift in up to the first floor, where the bedrooms were, it was a really simple and low-cost thing to do. It was a very simple piece of design. This will not be covered in the Health and Care Bill, but this relates to so many aspects of our society. You could say that housing is a health issue. In the first group this morning, we talked about social care and how many people cannot leave hospital and go home because their accommodation is unsuitable. We need to think all the way along the line across our society to make sure that does not happen.

Finally, I want to pick out one or two words in this amendment, which talks about housing and urban environments. I thought here of the New Ground co-housing development in north London, which is for women aged over 50. One aspect of it is looking at how people can support each other, be good neighbours and form a community that can provide support. This morning, I attended a King’s Fund briefing talking about social care and there was a great deal of talk about the need for digital innovation and technology. I tweeted, “What about social innovation?” We have to think about how we organise our societies and urban environments so that people can form those kinds of communities. If you visit any area of new housing being built around the country, there is typically precious little in it to encourage that kind of community development. The housing point is obvious, as is the environment point, but let us not lose the community and urban structure points from that amendment either.