It was a pleasure earlier today to speak in the debate on the Queen's Speech, which will not only deliver on our manifesto commitments on health and social care but help our fantastic NHS and social care partners come out of the pandemic even stronger.
In the last Parliament, we introduced the NHS Funding Act 2020, enshrining our unprecedented £33.9 billion investment in the NHS in law. We also got started with our commitment to build 40 new hospitals, including in Carshalton and Wallington, where over £500 million has been allocated to improve Epsom and St Helier Hospitals and to build a brand-new third local hospital in Sutton, protecting A&E and maternity services right here in our borough.
While our health and social care sectors could certainly not have been described as quiet pre-pandemic, they have been on the frontline of our pandemic response, dealing with an even greater, extraordinary demand on their services. The challenges that our health and social care sectors face as a result are stark. The NHS long-term plan had already highlighted many of the issues that existed pre-pandemic, especially around workforce and integration, but the coronavirus has also presented challenges around backlogs, including for elective surgeries and cancer treatments, and a spike in demand for mental health services, among many others.
I wanted to raise in particular the incredible effort throughout this pandemic of our amazing community pharmacists, who are so often left out of the conversation. They have demonstrated just how important they are, and we must reward this effort by reviewing their funding model, expanding their roles and giving them a seat at a strategic ICS level to help shape the future of healthcare delivery in their local areas.
This Queen’s Speech gives further impetus to deliver on the NHS long-term plan and to address not only the challenges faced pre-pandemic but the ones exacerbated and presented by it. Chief among the forthcoming legislation is the health and care Bill, which is designed to develop a more integrated care system, with the NHS, local government and other partners coming together, improving innovation and supporting patients to receive more tailored and preventive care closer to home, not to mention the additional measures to continue the life-saving vaccine roll-out, reform social care and truly embrace the preventive agenda.
This is not about looking backwards, to get the NHS and social care back to some kind of pre-pandemic level. It is about looking to the future and giving our health and social care sectors the ability to deliver a world-class service in a post-pandemic world. By driving integration, catching up on backlogs, tackling the challenges faced before the pandemic and those that came about because of it, reforming social care, helping patients with preventable illnesses and, of course, continuing to vaccinate the nation against coronavirus, this Queen’s Speech gives the NHS and social care the tools necessary to not only recover from the pandemic but deliver positive change and outcomes for patients in the years to come.