This has been a tense week for the UK’s Brexit team as they published a position paper on the customs backstop (detailed below). Brexit Secretary, David Davis, had previously said he would resign if an end date was not put on and transition agreement but Prime Minister, Theresa May, has refused to commit to one. Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has accused the Prime Minister of lacking “guts” in a speech he claimed was under Chatham House rules, but which mysteriously managed to find its way into the public domain and criticised Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and the Treasury of being “the heart of Remain.” We have not seen any resignations so far, but it is certainly a very volatile and tense political climate at the moment.

Disabled toilets deemed inadequate for children

The Times has reported on a survey of 113 disabled people conducted by someone with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair. The survey found that parents and carers of people with profound disabilities suffer from insufficient toilet facilities with proper equipment to the extent that it often prevents disabled people going out. Some families carried padded mats and blankets for their disabled child to lie on when they needed the toilet. Respondents to the survey say that the lack of provisions are unhygienic, undignified, and unacceptable. It noted that some children with such disabilities needed incontinence pads or colostomy bags changed when on the move.

Charities across the UK are campaigning for what have been dubbed “changing places” which are lavatories with wheel chair access and enough space for two carers, a changing bench and a hoist in all city centres, stations and public buildings.

Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “There are a quarter of a million adults and children with severe disabilities such as muscular dystrophy who could benefit from a changing places toilet.” The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “There are now 1,109 [changing places] toilets across the UK, up from just 140 in 2007, and we have helped fund the development of a new website so people know where to find them.”

Whitehouse met with Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Changing Places Team and arranged for them to discuss their work with relevant PCF members, who would then report back to the Forum.

Major health charities join forces to call for more health funding

Three major health organisations – the Health Foundation, the Nuffield Trust, and the King’s Fund – have written a joint open letter to Prime Minister, Theresa May, calling for increased funding for the NHS. Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation; Chris Ham, Chief Executive of the King’s Fund; and Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of Nuffield Trust, signed the letter which welcomed May’s announcement on a new long-term funding plan and multi-year funding settlement for the NHS, as well as the “relative protection of the health budget since 2010.”

The letter argued, however, that “historically low funding increases and rising demand for services from a growing and aging population have left the NHS facing unprecedented pressures and struggling to maintain standards of care” as it supported calls for a four per cent a year increase in overall funding, as well as reform to ensure the NHS remains “sustainable.” It says that the NHS has met savings by reducing important activity in public health, capital investment and staff training which, it asserted, “is not a technical point, it has a material impact on patient care.” It calls for the ongoing reforms to be sufficiently funded. The letter focused on revitalising the NHS workforce which it says is in “crisis” and also needs a long-term strategy, and on the need to reform social care.

Health Secretary confirms NHS funding boost

Health and Social Care Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has asserted that the NHS will get a “significant increase” in its budget as part of its 70th birthday celebrations, The Guardian has revealed. Hunt claimed that Prime Minister, Theresa May, was motivated to increase funding in order to show that the Conservatives can be trusted with the NHS, and to tackle chronic understaffing coupled with the increased demand stemming from an ageing population. He also said that May would fulfil her promise of implementing a “long-term plan” for the NHS. Hunt called May “unbelievably committed” and asserted that “now the economy is back on its feet” the Government is able to review NHS spending.

However, whilst HM Treasury is under pressure from multiple departments to increase funding it is keen to keep costs down. While DHSC and the wider health community is calling for a minimum of a four per cent a year increase, The Treasury believes it cannot afford more than 2-2.5%. In expressing his support for a long-term funding strategy, Hunt noted the short-sightedness of the recent policy of small, ad hoc increases and emergency injections of cash, calling them “unviable.”

Hunt admitted that the Government was unlikely to meet the target he first made in 2015 to increase GP numbers by 5,000 by 2020 and acknowledged the impact of Brexit on staff shortages. He said, “We do need 5,000 more GPs” but “it has been harder than we thought.”

This looks promising for NHS funding however nothing will be confirmed until the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget in November and it is likely both DHSC and HM Treasury will have to compromise and the NHS will get a funding increase somewhere in between the Treasury’s preference of 2-2.5 percent and DHSC’s call for four per cent. It will be important to raise awareness of the needs of children and young people with continence issues as such services will be competing for limited funds with other health provisions.

Scottish Government consults on supporting Disabled Children, Young People, and their Families

The Scottish Government is consulting on its proposals for supporting disabled children, young people and their families. The proposals span across the inclusive communication of people’s rights to who needs to know, accessibility to support, and transitions to adult care. This is in response to a survey conducted by the Scottish Government which found that families wanted to have centralised resources that are signposted, and resources to span over the legal rights and support mechanisms available. The Scottish Government’s aim is, therefore, to develop “a central, inclusive source of information” available online and on a mobile app.

The deadline for submissions is the 5th September. The consultation does not reference continence directly but this is a good opportunity to try to make the EICC more accessible to service users. Whitehouse will draft a response to the consultation from the PCF.