MPs urge Theresa May to agree cross-party NHS funding plan

The chairs of three influential House of Commons select committees have urged prime minister Theresa May to agree a cross-party deal to secure the future of health and social care funding.

Pointing to 'pressing challenges' facing social care and the NHS, the MPs warn that political consensus is vital to keep the service afloat in the face of soaring demand.

In a letter to Ms May, health select committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston, public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier and communities and local government committee chair Clive Betts called on the prime minister to launch an urgent review of the health and social care sector.

The trio argue that the review must encompass the NHS and social care together because the 'ongoing separation of health and social care is creating difficulties for individuals and avoidable barriers and inefficiencies'.

NHS funding

The letter says: 'As chairs of the three select committees with the most direct interest in the future sustainability of the health and social care systems we recognise the need for a political consensus in finding answers to the pressing social care challenges facing the country, but feel that this must also include the NHS.

'We were encouraged by your recognition at the liaison committee that everyone has a part to play in finding a sustainable way of ensuring social care provision in the future. You also accepted the need for a review to find a way of funding social care sustainably for the long term.

'We believe that can best be achieved if there is cross-party consensus, and therefore urge you to invite all parties to become involved in a review, which should begin as soon as possible. Given the scale of rising demand, this immense challenge will face whichever party is in government over the coming decades.'

The MPs highlight support from leading public sector organisations and think tanks for a cross-party agreement on future health and social care funding, and repeats warnings about the crisis currently facing the service.

It adds: 'We are calling for a new political consensus to take this forward. This needs to be done swiftly so that agreement can be reflected in the next spending round.'

NHS crisis

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter backed the call for a cross-party agreement. 'Politicians from all sides must come together to agree a long-term solution to this crisis,' he said. 'Failures within the social care system have a considerable knock-on effect on an already stretched and underfunded NHS. To look after patients well, doctors need social care to be well-funded and adequately staffed.

'When social care doesn’t function, patients experience delays in moving from hospital to appropriate social care settings. This damages patient care and places a significant financial strain on the NHS. Improved integration between health and social care services would help patients move from hospital to social care more easily.

'The current crunch in health and social care is a direct result of years of inadequate funding and politicians of all parties failing to take a long-term view on what needs to happen. Now is the time to put politics to one side and reach a cross-party consensus on how to tackle this crisis.'

Photo: Ian Bottle

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