A Lib Dem Perspective - A passionate belief in a strong and effective NHS is in the DNA of every Liberal Democrat

5 Jun 2024
Front Entrance to Bexhill Hospital

Contrary to widespread belief, it is actually Liberal Peer Lord Beveridge who should be regarded as the originator of the NHS. His 1942 report on Social Insurance formed the basis of the welfare state introduced in 1948. So a passionate belief in a strong and effective NHS is in the DNA of every Liberal Democrat. Our desire to repair the failing adult social care sector has been reinforced by Sir Ed Davey’s personal experience as a home carer, first for his mother and later his son. NHS and social care are intertwined and need to be subjected to a comprehensive overhaul in the light of numerous broken Government promises.

Much of the shortage of hospital beds is caused by bed blocking by patients fit to go home but who are waiting for a care package. This in turn means more patients being subjected to degrading ‘hospital corridor care’, to release the ambulance they arrived in.  There are over 150,000 social care vacancies and it is estimated that an additional 400,000 carers will be needed over the next decade due to increasing longevity. Over 28% of carers left their role in 2022/23. Political promises to reduce legal immigration will exacerbate the problem. LibDems want to see minimum carers’ pay set at £2 per hour higher than the ‘Living Wage’ together with development of a career structure to encourage more applicants and better retention. Carers’ Allowance and respite breaks should also be increased to give unpaid home carers the support they desperately need. 

Alongside increasing carers’ pay we want to introduce free personal care for adults, on the model successfully introduced by LibDems in government in Scotland in 2002. This fully costed plan would be partly paid for by savings to the NHS as home care is much cheaper than hospital.

The NHS also has severe staff shortages, recently estimated at 121,000, across all roles. Promises to build more GP surgeries are misleading in light of existing GP shortages. In February 2020 the Government committed to recruit an extra 6,000 GPs by 2024: as of April less than half this promise had been delivered, and BMA figures indicate there are actually 1,759 fewer GPs now than in 2015! These shortages mean many people have to wait up to four weeks for a GP appointment: LibDems believe everyone should have the right to see their GP within seven days, or 24 hours if urgent.

In addition to all the above, we see broken promises on new hospitals, a desperate shortage of access to NHS dentistry and a failure to appreciate the importance of mental health. We see the creeping privatisation of the Health Service to short-cut waiting lists, and during COVID-19 the scandalous allocation of PPE contracts to friends, relatives and donors.

It truly is time for a change and time for a fairer Britain.

Cllr Kathryn Field

June 2024

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