Political and Parliamentary Monitoring
Week Commencing 10th December 2018
In a tumultuous week in Westminster, Theresa May has won the backing of her party to stay on as Prime Minister. At nine o’clock on Wednesday evening, Sir Graham Brady, Chair of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, announced the result. In a blow to pro-Brexit Conservative MPs who had hoped to remove the Prime Minister, the result – 200 votes in her favour, 117 against – means she cannot be challenged in a similar vein for another year.
Emerging from 10 Downing Street late on Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister said she and her party had a “renewed mission” to deliver Brexit and unite the country. May flew to Brussels on Thursday to appeal to her fellow EU leaders to offer Britain a legally binding commitment that the backstop on the island of Ireland, which would be introduced in the event of a no-deal scenario in which new trade arrangements have not been completed, would be legally binding.
In private, it is believed that May confirmed to colleagues that although she would like to fight the next general election, she would step down before 2022. James Cleverly MP, a loyalist to the Prime Minister, said that May “recognises a lot of people are not comfortable with her leading us into a future general election.” In response to the vote, the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, urged the Prime Minister to “bring her dismal deal back to the House of Commons.”
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. At the end of a week of politicking, the Prime Minister remains secure in her position, and a vote in Parliament on a Brexit deal remains some weeks off.
- NHS waiting lists for lung and bowel treatments double in eight years
- Scottish GP workforce increases
- Act now to reduce health inequalities
NHS waiting lists for lung and bowel treatments double in eight years
NHS waiting lists for patients in “excruciating pain” or with life-threatening conditions including lung cancers and bowel diseases have doubled since 2010, and the overall waiting list now stands at more than 4 million. Specialist treatments have been worse-affected by the ‘double whammy’ of tighter controls on health spending and the increase in the number of NHS staff vacancies.
Despite the commitment to another £20.5 billion of funding for the NHS from 2019, the investment rate is still just a quarter of the amount the Health Service relied on for decades. Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients’ Association, said that the mixture of budget cuts and loss of staff meant “we risk returning to the days of unacceptably long wait for elective surgery”, adding that for some “those days are clearly here again already”.
Since its inception the NHS relied on average annual growth of around four per cent, but since 2010 spending on the Health Service has risen by just one per cent a year. Waiting lists fell to a low of 2.4 million in 2009-10, but have since climbed. Jonathan Ashworth, the Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said that the “staggering increases in waiting lists” had resulted in “patients waiting longer and longer in pain, distress and anxiety”.
In response to the news, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said that “nearly 15,000 fewer people are waiting over a year for non-urgent operation compared to eight years ago.”
This news will be of great concern to the PCF. Without the expert staff and investment, many patients with bladder and bowel issues can go for long periods without the offer for suitable treatment. This can impact quality of life, and in the meantime may mean that some are not using the devices or short-term treatments best suited for them.
Scottish GP workforce increases for first time in a decade
Figures published by the Scottish Information Services Division show that there were 4,994 GPs working in Scotland at the end of September 2018 compared to 4,919 in 2017, representing a small but significant increase in the number of GPs working in the country. This is the first real increase in GP number Scotland has seen for a decade, and is part of a wider trend which has seen some surgeries close and ‘super surgeries’ expand.
Chair of the General Practitioners Council of Scotland, Dr Andrew Buist, welcomed the figures, but added that in the short-term it is “essential that we do everything possible to retain the GPs currently working”. A new GP contract introduced by the Scottish Government, has aimed to increase the retention rate by addressing working conditions.
The increase in Scotland has not been mirrored in other parts of the country. In England, GP numbers have only just stabilised after months of rapid decline, November figures show. At the time, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said that “the trajectory is on the up” and recommitted the organisation to work with the NHS to increase numbers.
As the PCF will be aware, having well-trained doctors available to diagnose and treat young people and children is essential for good care. With this in mind, the organisation will welcome the rise in the number of GPs, and the Secretariat will continue to monitor whether the increased number of staff will have an impact on delays to treatment.
Act now to reduce health inequalities, public health experts said
A group of thirty senior public health experts from England have written an open letter highlighting their concerns over the cuts to central government public health grants. Quoting the Northern Health Science Alliance’s Health for Wealth report, the experts, which include the Chief Executive Officers of multiple NHS Trusts, warn that more must be done if the country is to avoid exacerbating a postcode lottery of services.
The letter says “the government has future opportunities to halt the widening gap between rich and poor in the country”, adding that health inequalities can be tackled by “using next year’s spending review to reverse cuts to public health grants.” The letter comes in the same week that local authorities in Sunderland, Shropshire, South Shields and Durham have all announced that they are slashing the public health budgets for their areas.
The Paediatric Continence Forum will be concerned about this news. Given that school nurses are now funded by local authorities, to see that central government grants are continuing to fall in this area could negatively affect services.