Over the past 18 months, we’ve all been reminded how important our health is and how lucky we are to have such a brilliant NHS to look after us when we need it. Despite the tireless efforts of so many, the pandemic has left the number of patients waiting for elective surgery and routine treatment in England at a record high of over 5 million and – left unchecked - that could reach 13 million by the end of the year. To help tackle this, the NHS will receive an extra £5.4 billion over the next 6 months to support its response to COVID-19 and help tackle waiting lists. This additional money brings the government’s total investment to health services for COVID-19 so far this year to over £34 billion. In Chichester, we are extremely lucky to have Marianne Griffith and her team running our local hospital trust, as thanks to them we’re ahead of most other areas in our catch-up work.
During the pandemic, a key priority for everyone was caring for our elderly population, which emphasised some of the long-term challenges within the care sector. Despite the issue being ducked for decades by successive governments, the Prime Minister is taking on the challenge to create a social care system that is fair and accessible. This is hugely important, with more of us living longer and with more complex health needs. Both my grandmothers had dementia and needed care towards the end of their lives. Anyone who has had a loved one in that situation will know how vital high-quality care is, but also how concerning the costs involved can be.
So, to ensure everyone who needs care has the confidence they can receive it without losing everything - the new policy will ensure no one has to pay more than £86,000 for their care and puts in place upper and lower capital limits of £100,000 and £20,000 respectively.
To pay for this, from next April we will create a new, UK-wide, 1.25 per cent Health and Social Care Levy on National Insurance Contribution, with dividends rates increasing by the same amount. This will raise almost £36 billion over the next three years, with money from the levy going directly to health and social care across the UK. There is still a huge amount of work ahead to properly integrate health and social care, but this first step is moving us in the right direction.