Health and Social Care

7 May 2024
ben hospital

Our NHS and social care services are in a desperate state. NHS and care workers are struggling to hold the system together, but they urgently need more support. We need to invest more money, and target it better.

In particular, we need to invest in more GPs to help people access the treatment they need more quickly, and to invest in care packages to help people get home from hospital. Doing that would help the whole system start to function more efficiently and more effectively. Many of my friends and family have dedicated their careers to the NHS, including my wife who is a hospital doctor. I know that if we support them to do their jobs, we can get our health and social care services working again.


When I meet people across East Grinstead and Uckfield constituency, the state of the NHS probably triggers the greatest strength of feeling.

On one hand, it inspires almost universal pride, and respect for the professionals who work in our health centres and hospitals. On the other, it generates despair at the state into which the NHS has been allowed to fall.

A system struggling to cope

In particular, I hear from people who are unable to access GP appointments when they need them. In East Grinstead and Crawley Down especially, health centres run by Modality Mid Sussex have been rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission, and placed in special measures.

This is a symptom of a system that has reached breaking point. Across the NHS, health professionals are struggling to do their jobs under almost impossible conditions. They want to care for people and are trained to do so, but the system is letting them down and they are exhausted. Many are leaving or retiring early, many others are absent from work with ill health, including anxiety, stress and depression.

For patients, the result is often an inability to see their doctor or to schedule a routine operation.

A multitude of causes

There are too many reasons for this state of affairs to list them all in this blog. They include chronic underinvestment over many years across the NHS and social care, lack of proper workforce planning, combined with increased demand from an ageing population and long-term health trends including rises in obesity and diabetes. The Covid pandemic placed an already creaking system under intolerable strain.

A way forward

The most important question, of course, is what to do to about it.

There are no easy solutions. Getting our health and social care services to where we want them to be will take years. But here are some key things I think we need to do immediately:

Invest in more GPs: GPs are the linchpin of the NHS. When GPs are properly supported they can provide excellent care in the community, and help patients access other NHS services if they need them. When people can’t access GPs, they turn up elsewhere in the system, like A&E. That not only means those people don’t always get the best care, it is also extremely inefficient and expensive, wasting NHS resources.

Since 2015, we’ve seen an the introduction of physician associates, with plans for more in future. There are a number of ways they can support general practice, but they are not a substitute for fully trained GPs.

The Liberal Democrats have committed to delivering 8000 more GPs, by recruiting, training and retaining them. This would support a guarantee that people can see a GP within a week, or 24 hours in urgent cases. Though this would cost money up front, it would save more in the long-run by helping to get the system functioning more effectively.

Invest in social care: If GPs are the front door of the NHS, social care is the back door. We will not fix the problems in our health service as long as people are unable to be discharged safely from hospital.

We are proposing to provide free personal care for people at home, based on the model introduced by the Labour-Liberal Democrat government in Scotland in 2002. We would introduce a real living wage for care workers, and provide a package of support for unpaid care workers. Specifically, that should include cancelling the debts of people who have been overpaid for carer’s allowance – many of whom are being pursued for thousands of pounds by the Department for Work of Pensions.

Invest in mental health: The country is experiencing a mental health crisis, and for too long mental health has not been prioritised in our health system. While awareness of mental health issues is starting to improve, services are still not given enough support. Our proposals to improve mental health services include introducing walk-in centres in every community for young people who need mental health support; reduce ‘out of area’ placements so that people aren’t sent a long way from home for treatment; and placing a mental health specialist in every school.

Support health professionals: Many NHS staff members are experiencing their own challenges with mental health, as a result of the conditions in which they are working. I am pleased that recent proposals to cut the mental health service for doctors, NHS Practitioner Health, were reversed after an outcry – but we need to do a lot more to support our health workers to stay healthy. That is not only vital for them personally, but will also mean the NHS retains more essential workers that it so desperately needs.

Take a more holistic approach to the country’s health: As well as improving and investing in health and social care services, we need to start thinking about health more broadly. So much ill health is caused by broader social factors, including poverty, inequality and the environment. We should build a preventative approach to ill-health into programmes across government, that will improve people’s health and save resources in the long term.

That should include gradually restoring the Public Health Grant to 2015 levels. We also need to look at benefits and entitlements, like the Personal Independence Payment, to make sure they are genuinely supporting people to be healthy – by enabling people who would benefit from returning to work, and properly supporting those who can’t.


Health is such a hugely important and complex area, and there is so much more to say. I hope these ideas help set out some key priorities that I would work towards as your MP.

This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.