All Luke Evans contributions to the Health and Care Bill 2021-22

Wed 14th July 2021
3 interactions (488 words)

Health and Care Bill

(2nd reading)
Luke Evans Excerpts
Wednesday 14th July 2021

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department of Health and Social Care
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. The hon. Lady’s time has run out.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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I declare my interest and my family’s interests in healthcare service.

I welcome the Bill. Those concerned about it should realise that it is an evolution, not a revolution, coming from the ground up. Do not take it from me; take it from the evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee from Simon Stevens, who said:

“We have been working so closely for a number of years with colleagues across the health service and our broader partners. Genuinely, I think this is unusual, if not unique, in having come from the NHS as a series of asks to Parliament rather than something that Parliament is perhaps imposing on the NHS.”

That is the leader of the NHS.

Three minutes is a very short time to try to pull this Bill apart, so I am going to use my time to set out some amendments and new ideas that I would like the Minister to consider. Some are practical, some are short and some are much bigger. The first is simple: annual virus drills for care homes. We have fire drills regularly, but, given the pandemic, care homes may well benefit from being further prepared for future pandemics.

I would like mental wellbeing to be seen as a public health issue. Everyone suffers with their mental wellbeing; not everyone has mental ill health, and this House often gets confused between the two. That is really important, because until we label mental wellbeing as such, it becomes very hard to implement education and protective policies. Many Members will know that my particular interest is body image—the labelling of altered images, just as we label calories on food, so that we have parity between physical health and mental health.

My final idea—this is probably the most revolutionary piece I would like to put across—is to have a named person for change on the frontline. We have named bodies for whistleblowers, and we have protected people who are guardians for data, but fundamentally, change has to come from the bottom. All too often in my career, I was told, “You’re too junior” or “This is the way we’ve always done it.” We want to empower the people on the frontline who understand how the system works to make changes, and I think there is a chance to amend the Bill to do exactly that. I am happy to meet the Minister to explain further.

As I have a little more time, I am keen to comment on the reduction of bureaucracy. It is all very well making sure that there is not a problem when we are commissioning, but fundamentally, we need to look at the admin on the health service side—the barriers between primary care and secondary care. About 5% to 10% of a GP’s workload is dealing with chasing admin. That is not time well spent; it takes services away from the clinical frontline, and it is something that could be remedied, possibly even without legislation.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab) [V]
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We all know that the last top-down reorganisation of the health service was a disaster for our people and those who work in it, so I was quite excited to hear of the plans to sort it out. I must have been mad. Instead of bringing forward a Bill to deal with their own mess and sort out the health crisis they have created, the Government have introduced a hotchpotch, which will do neither and could make it worse.

The Prime Minister’s response to decades of regional inequality and underfunding of communities such as mine is pathetic. It seems that, instead of introducing robust proposals to reskill our people, invest in our services and tackle their homemade crisis in the NHS, the Government are telling us that an increase in al fresco dining and an extension to the service of takeaway pints are the answers. That sort of trite nonsense is downright insulting to people who live in constituencies such as mine.

People in Stockton North live shorter, less healthy lives than others in more affluent areas by virtue of geography alone. As Cancer Research UK has said:

“If the UK is to tackle inequalities and make sure no community is left behind…then health must be hardwired into the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.”

If the Government are serious about levelling up for communities such as mine, they will have to take meaningful action to tackle the health inequalities that plague them.

In Stockton North, 7.4% of the population suffer from asthma, higher than the 6.5% who suffer across England. In England, the level of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among the population is 1.9%; that rises to 3.1% in my constituency. There are other inequalities, too, and we need action now. Will the new Secretary of State come good where others have failed and provide Stockton with the new hospital it desperately needs?

Some 13.2% of adults in Stockton-on-Tees are smokers, and smoking-attributable hospital admissions and deaths are increasing, yet Government action to reduce smoking has generally stagnated. Measures in the Bill to tackle obesity are welcome, but smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death, and yet there are no proposals to tackle it. The Bill represents an ideal opportunity to introduce a US-style “polluter pays” levy with tobacco control, as recommended by the all-party group on smoking and health, and which the Government promised to consider two years ago in their prevention Green Paper. The all-party group—I declare my interest as the vice-chair—has provided a model for this approach, and I am grateful to Action on Smoking and Health and others for their work. The all- party group published a comprehensive set of recommendations that would help the Government to achieve their ambition of a smoke-free 2030, including further regulatory measures to de-normalise smoking, but nothing has happened.

Cancer Research UK has estimated that, on current trends, we will not make England smoke free until at least 2037, and it will be longer for poorer communities. We need action now. The Government say that we need bold action; they should take it now. That is one step towards tackling inequalities that blight our country.