There have been 7 exchanges involving Lord Polak and the Department of Health and Social Care
|Thu 19th November 2020||Brain Tumour Research (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (133 words)|
|Wed 2nd September 2020||Covid-19: Self-isolation Payment Scheme (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (30 words)|
|Wed 1st July 2020||Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (56 words)|
|Tue 19th May 2020||Mental Health Services (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (124 words)|
|Wed 20th June 2018||National Health Service: Mental Health Funding (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (105 words)|
|Tue 4th April 2017||Hospitals: Patient Transport (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (135 words)|
|Thu 9th June 2016||National Clinical Director of Adult Neurology (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (90 words)|
My Lords, I have a table of all the brain tumour research projects that we have backed over the last 10 years and I would be very glad to share it with the noble Baroness in correspondence. The short answer is, not enough. I would like there to be more grants and of higher value, but I recognise the challenge. When I speak to the scientists—even Richard Gilbertson, who is a very measured practitioner in this area—they recognise that more work needs to be done at an earlier stage to ensure that they are the kinds of projects that the NIHR system can back. We need to have a conversation about how we can encourage the early-stage science and the creative drafting of fresh ideas for that pipeline. That is something that I am very keen to get on with and have a dialogue about.
My Lords, on behalf of everyone, I thank my noble friend for that powerful personal testimony. I am sure there will be many others in the Chamber or listening who have known or lived through some association with brain cancer or cancer of some kind. It is extremely gratifying that in many areas of cancer we have made enormous progress—to the extent that it is a completely treatable disease in many respects—but in the area of brain cancer, that is not true. That is not good enough and we are working on trying to find a solution. Money has been spent, but not enough. We need more focus on this.
On my noble friend’s point on supporting families, that is something that trusts work on, but it is left to the charities and support organisations to do. In all areas of illness, that is something where perhaps we could or should be doing more and I completely take on board his comments.
The noble Lord asks a wide-ranging set of questions. We are looking at the effectiveness of the scheme. We are working with DAs to see whether the scheme could or should be extended in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Once that review is done and we have assessed its impact, we will be able to make decisions of the kind he describes.
My Lords, the payment itself will not affect existing benefits in any way. Payments through the scheme will, though, be subject to income tax and some form of national insurance contribution, in line with other support payments such as through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
I pay tribute to the NHS in the Leicester area, which has done magnificently. I understand that the facilities there are extremely resilient. In Leicester, as in many other places, a major source of concern is the spread of the disease among younger, working-age people, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, many of whom are not showing symptoms—are not touched negatively by the disease and may be socialising—but become infectious to their parents and grandparents. That is the cycle that we have seen in places such as Texas where, after the Easter break, young people led to a large outbreak of the disease. At this stage, hospitals are not facing the pressure, but we are leaning into the disease to prevent the cycle from heading that way.
My Lords, we have an energetic fake news and rebuttal team at the Department for Health—which I regard as an enormous shame. It is a waste of our time and indicates how dangerous speculation and false information of this nature can be. I have noticed in today’s social media a large amount of extremely irresponsible recycling of fake news by those who, frankly, should have known better. I urge all influencers, whether from the worlds of media, politics, health or other parts of society, to think carefully before recycling fake news and speculation on outbreaks in a way that wastes the time of public health officials and creates anxiety among the public.
I pay tribute to exactly the sort of charity that my noble friend’s daughter works in. They provide invaluable and often unseen benefits to society. We have already made available considerable financial support for similar such charities. If my noble friend would like to write to me with the details of the one he described, I would be glad to consider it. Undoubtedly, these charities will play an important role in dealing with mental health issues of the kind he describes during the mop-up after Covid.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate that, unfortunately, that is a feature of rural communities. I understand that the MHCLG has a sparsity fund to help with that issue. Indeed, particular funding is going into support and more community-based care for those at risk of suicide and other mental illness.
My noble friend is absolutely right to highlight this issue. Individually, our emergency workers did extraordinary deeds of bravery, for which we are all deeply grateful, during the Grenfell fire. In the aftermath of that fire, the north-west London mental health service was the lead trust in providing mental health support for not just the families and individuals who were victims of the fire but emergency service workers who had been through that very traumatic experience. I strongly encourage any emergency service workers who are experiencing trauma—of course, that can happen many months, indeed years, afterwards—to get in contact with mental health services.
I am afraid the noble Lord is wrong on the 18-week target—it has not been dropped. It is within the mandate. The 18-week target is being fulfilled in the vast majority of cases. Performance is much better than it was 10 years ago in terms of both median waits and the number of people who are waiting. I do not have the precise figure for ambulance services. However, they are in the mandate and local trusts are expected to deliver against the targets in the mandate.
I am sorry to hear about the case of this young man and offer my sympathies to both him and his family. I appreciate the urgency and I understand that this person may not have long to live. I shall certainly speak to colleagues as soon as humanly possible and come back to the noble Lord with information on the situation.
Health is of course a devolved matter in the UK, but there is absolutely nothing to stop the devolved parts of the UK—Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England—from working closely together on these issues. I do not think that the lack of a national clinical director prevents us in any way from doing that.
I do not want in any way to diminish the huge clinical importance of this and the suffering of many people with long-term neurological conditions. They are among some of the worst illnesses that anyone can have and I am delighted that my noble friend recovered from his. From everything that I have been told by NHS England and Bruce Keogh, I do not believe that the lack of a national clinical director will in any way detract from the resources that we are making available to neurology.