The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, viewed from the south side of the Thames

The NHS and Social Care (Commission) Bill was scheduled to have its second reading debate in the House of Commons today. The Bill’s second reading has now been moved to Friday 22nd April, so MPs will have to wait a further six weeks to air their views on the important matters which the Bill is seeking to address.

It is disappointing to see this delay, and that both dates for this crucial debate were scheduled on Fridays, a day when almost all MPs have duties within their constituencies and cannot attend debates in the House of Commons.

This Private Member’s Bill was introduced to Parliament on 6 January 2016 under the Ten Minute Rule, by its sponsor Norman Lamb MP. Mr Lamb is the Liberal Democrat’s Health Spokesperson, but significantly, he was Care and Support Minister at the Department of Health when the Care Act came into existence.

At the time, in Norman Lamb’s own words, the Care Act represented “the most significant reform of care and support in more than 60 years”. Yet less than a year since the Care Act came into effect last April, the ex-Care and Support Minister is calling for an independent commission to examine the future of the National Health Service and the social care system.

Voicing concerns

The Care Act was heralded as a once in a generation opportunity to make social care better. It sets out a positive vision for social care, based on the principle of wellbeing. But provisions within the Care Act can only deliver improvements to social care if the necessary funding is available.

At a reception held by Independent Age in Parliament on Wednesday, Norman Lamb voiced his concerns about the future of health and social care. He spoke about the huge pressures on the health and care system and the importance of politicians from across the political divide working together to fix these.

Former Shadow Minister for Care and Older People Liz Kendall MP spoke about the importance of a debate on the health and care system of our future. Former Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell, now chair of the NHS Confederation, also added his voice to calls for a commission.

The reception was attended by representatives of charities who campaign across a range of health and social care issues. From the care of growing numbers of elderly people, to health and care for people with cancer, to care and support for disabled people; there was widespread agreement on the need for a cross-party Commission to examine the future of the NHS and social care.

The gap between aspirations and reality

Politicians from all parties agree on the need for good health services and social care. But there is a huge gap between these aspirations and the reality as experienced by millions of older and disabled people each day.

Cuts to central government funds for health and social care have been exacerbated by cuts to Local Authority budgets and changes to the way that councils are funded. There have been 5 years of funding reductions in council-funded adult social care totalling £4.6 billion

These cuts and budgetary pressures are deeply affecting social care services, to the point of crisis.

Campaign for better social care

United Response continues to campaign for a fair and sustainable care system. We work alongside partners like Independent Age within the Care and Support Alliance (CSA) to try and keep this issue in the public eye. And we hope that the Government listens to these concerns, and those expressed by MPs across the political divide about the future of the NHS and social care.

You can support our campaigning for better social care by following us on Twitter and retweeting our latest messages, statements, and blogs as we try to bring about change.

You can also contact your local MP and ask them to support NHS and Social Care (Commission) Bill.

Find out who your local MP is and how to contact them

John JC Cooper, campaigns and public affairs manager.