Weekly political news round up – 8th July 2016

July 18, 2016 in News by Whitehouse

Overview headlines

The Minister of State for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt MP, has announced he will resign from his position in September once the next Prime Minister comes into office. Mr Burt did not give a specific reason for his resignation, confirmed during a session of health questions, but said it was not a sudden “post-Brexit resignation”. Elsewhere, junior doctors within the BMA have voted to reject the Government’s latest contract offer, resulting in the Secretary of State for Health insisting he will impose the contract.

Public health cuts worst affecting children’s services

Analysis by HSJ has suggested that children’s services are experiencing the greatest difficulties as a result of cuts to public health funding and other spending by local authorities. The research found approximately £50.5 million of spending cuts related to public health spending in 2016/17 – which could equate to more than £100 million if the figure is extrapolated to all councils with public health responsibility and included cuts not yet agreed by councils. This may also represent a 4% cut to public health spending for the 2016/17 financial year.

Nearly 14% (£7 million) of the decrease was for services specifically for children and young people such as health visiting and school nursing – compared with a 6.5% reduction in 2015/16 – reflecting concerns around health visiting raised when commissioning responsibility for this transferred to local authorities last year. Although some NHS commissioners have taken over some decommissioned services, this is not universal and has not generally been extended to services for children and young people yet.

School nursing in London borough risks being entirely withdrawn

In addition to this, the London borough of Bromley is alleged to be considering withdrawing its school nursing services altogether as part of a review of “the nature and provision of all of [its] children’s health services”. The suggestion has arisen from school nurses in the borough, currently employed by the social enterprise Bromley Healthcare, to look for new jobs as its current contract for school nursing will not be renewed after March 2017.

Bromley Council has defended its review of school nursing provision, saying that it believes it can “achieve better value for money as well as improved services for children and young people in Bromley. A local councillor suggested that previous reassurances that the council would seek “alternative sources of funding” for the provision have not emerged.

New Shadow Education Secretary appointed

The Labour Party has appointed a new Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner MP, following the resignations of Lucy Powell MP and her successor Pat Glass MP. The upheaval resulted from the disagreements within the Labour Party regarding the future of Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Rayner was first elected in 2015 and has been promoted from the position of Shadow Pensions Minister to her current role.

The appointment of Angela Rayner was shortly followed by a strike by teachers in England over school funding; which was accompanied by accusations that the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has been “deceiving the public” over school funding cuts. The comments, made by the acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney, argued that her use of the term “real terms protection” for school budgets does not reflect the cuts that headteachers are being forced to make to spending.

Warnings continue over the impact of Brexit on the NHS

Parliamentarians have continued to scrutinise the impact of the decision to leave the EU this week, with the newly appointed Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott hosting a debate on NHS Spending to examine the claim that leaving would allocate an additional £350 million of spending to the NHS. Ms Abbott also criticised the failure of those who campaigned to leave the EU to defend their claims about NHS spending following the result, inferring they misled the public in the process.

Moreover, the impact of Brexit on the value of the pound could result in an additional £900 million bill for the NHS over the next 12-18 months, due to the consequences of suppliers increasing their prices. This has led to calls for better procurement practice among providers, such as discussing supply deals in collaboration rather than repeatedly for individual trusts. The future of David Cameron’s flagship seven-day access programme has also been called into question, with NHS England’s national adviser on new models of primary care suggesting it will not be “anybody’s priority” once he has handed over to his successor.