Last week in Parliament a number of important elements emerged that relate to Health issues and it seems vital for our community to applaud the people who took the time to raise questions or supported these important issues. Perhaps we could also find ways to call on local MPs who have responded negatively and get them to explain their responses. The main focus last week was several items under the Health and Care Bill which had its third reading last week. There were five positive amendments that did not succeed which the Government were opposed to and one that the Government set out to satisfy their own requirement that did succeed. It is very clear that this Bill will have a serious impact on many people across our nation so this is not a theoretical issue and it is close to many of us. As it happened at the same time a number of stories emerged in the media from around the country of how people are already being seriously impacted by Health and Care issues. Sadly, this Bill will currently add to those challenges and involve many more people than who are already affected.
In terms of these votes in every case the Government was supported by enough of their Conservative members to win their requirements. With one very clear exception amongst them, there were only a small number of Conservative MPs who opposed the Government on most of the votes. On one case three Tories voted against the Government and in another case one Tory did so. However there were also a number who chose not to vote at all so they did at least reduce the majority of votes in favour of the Government. Inevitably the majority of Labour MPs voted in opposition to the Government on all six cases as indeed did most of the opposition party’s. Here in Sussex the two Labour MPs, Peter Kyle and Lloyd Russell-Moyle voted in all six cases along with the other political groups including Caroline Lucas for the Green Party. There were also three Sussex Conservative MPs who did not to vote for any of these elements. They were Peter Bottomley, Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani. Also, in one of the cases there was a none vote from Jeremy Quin. So, we can at least be grateful that they stepped back from the Government requirements view in each of the cases representing both East and West Sussex.
The one exception during the week was set out by Jeremy Hunt who is the MP of South West Surrey and who was the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care from 2012 to 2018. This means he should be very well respected by his colleagues including the Government. Indeed, he is now the Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee so his views are significant and it seems very reasonable for all of his colleagues to support his amendment, given that his proposal was also based on the Health and Care Bill. As it happens there are also more than 60 health and care organisations that had already supported his proposal. It was intended to strengthen workforce planning so that the Secretary of State would publish independent assessments of current and future workforce numbers every two years. As the group of 60 plus organisations stated before the vote took place “We are encouraging MPs to support the amendment to increase transparency and accountability on workforce planning, and provide the foundations for understanding how many staff we will need to meet demand.” Sadly only 18 of Jeremy Hunt’s Conservative colleagues were willing to support his clause and because SNP voters did not take part his amendment also failed to get installed.
Along with these six aspects that took place last week there were also a couple of questions that were raised by Caroline Lucas on the same theme regarding our nations Ambulance provision. Her questions were “what steps he is taking to reduce waiting times for ambulance services” and “what steps he is taking to support the mental health and wellbeing of ambulance staff”. The responses from the Minister included “We are investing an extra £55 million to increase staff numbers ahead of winter, helping trusts to recruit more 999 call handlers and clinicians to work in control rooms” And that we “provided £1.7 million across all 11 ambulance trusts for health and wellbeing projects. Each trust has identified specific projects to support their staff.” It is encouraging that people like Caroline are taking the time to raise these questions given how challenging things are currently for our nation. However, we also need at least ten of our Sussex MPs to explain why they rejected several Health and Care issues that included one that Jeremy Hunt had set out.