Burnham: ‘We’re beginning to fear old age’

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham visited West End Community Enterprise Centre in Morecambe to talk to local people about the future of the NHS, and in particular their own experience of the health service.'An animated Shadow Health Secretary sets out his plans, with Labour's parliamentary candidate for Morecambe Amina Lone to the right.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'8-1-2015
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham visited West End Community Enterprise Centre in Morecambe to talk to local people about the future of the NHS, and in particular their own experience of the health service.'An animated Shadow Health Secretary sets out his plans, with Labour's parliamentary candidate for Morecambe Amina Lone to the right. PIC BY ROB LOCK'8-1-2015
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Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham revealed plans to bring social care under the NHS umbrella at a meeting in Morecambe this week.

The MP for Leigh and former health secretary said that current pressure on the NHS was down to cuts to social care, and that people were “beginning to fear old age”.

Mr Burnham spoke to Lancaster district residents at a meeting at Westgate Community Centre on Thursday, flanked by prospective parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale Amina Lone.

Mr Burnham focussed on the recent “A&E crisis”, failed targets to see patients, and the danger of “fragmenting” the NHS by opening up service provision to the private sector.

He said: “It’s a combination of things that have led us to this.

“The government didn’t listen when they should have done.

“Things started to go off course after 2011, and the focus was taken away from front line care.

“Targets of seeing a GP within 48 hours, as well as evening appointments, were scrapped, walk in centres were closed, and NHS Direct, which had been in place for 10 years, was scrapped.

“NHS Direct wasn’t perfect, but because nurses were on the end of the line, it was trusted.

Then we get 111.”

But he said that the big issue which has been the root cause of the problems the NHS now faces is social care and the cuts to county council budgets.

Lancashire County Council said the budget for adult services, health & wellbeing, which adult social care makes up a large part of, has reduced from £339.295m in 2013/14 to £326.303m in 2014/15.

“This is more than anything the reason why the system is at its limits,” he said.

“It’s the knock on effect.

“We’ve seen home care withdrawn for about 350,000 people in this last Parliament, because councils are being cut so much.

“What can a 15 minute visit do?

“I think it’s getting to the point where people are beginning to fear old age.”

Mr Burnham said that he intended to propose bringing social care into the NHS, if Labour win the election.

“The demands in the past have been much lower, but as people have lived longer and longer, governments have not been funding things properly.

“It’s the sheer complexity of care now, people’s needs become a blur of physical, social and mental.

“I personally don’t believe that it’s sustainable any more.

“The only way we can do this is to re-think how we will care for older people in the twenty first century.

“My proposal is that you start in the home.”

The North Lancs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is proposing more community based health care, for example blood tests being carried out in the home, and is due to publish its Better Care Together strategy imminently.

But Mr Burnham said that although GP led commissioning made sense, the fragmentation of service provision wouldn’t work.

“The system broke down in Torbay. They integrated the provision, and it’s now not working because of the competition.”

One resident said: “If people really cared about older people, carers would not be on zero hours contrats, carers would be valued properly and paid properly.”

Mr Burnham said that Labour would protect the NHS with 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more doctors, 5,000 more home care workers and 3,000 more midwives.

He said this would be funded by clamping down on tax avoidance and raising tax on tobacco companies and properties with a value of more than £2m.