I would be a constructive, independent and evidence-led chair of the Health and Social Care Committee
In January this year, Jane (pseudonym), mother of two and a midwife, noticed that she had symptoms associated with cancer.
She immediately went to see her GP who referred her for tests. Through a series of system missteps and human error, what should have been treated urgently wasn’t, and it was only three weeks ago that she underwent an operation to remove a tumor. The operation was more risky, has a more uncertain outcome, and was more complicated than if it had been done sooner. I know I’m not alone amongst MPs in hearing stories like this.
Why is it that there’s a disconnect between our belief that the United Kingdom has world-leading health provision and the lived experience of many of our constituents? Why is it that we are at the cutting-edge in some areas, yet lag behind other G7 countries in health outcomes despite the massive injections of extra funding in recent years?
Seeing firsthand the challenges for our health and care system in meeting complex needs was what first brought me into politics
We are at an inflexion point and getting the right balance between driving through efficiencies and improving outcomes will be difficult. Aside from dealing with identified post-Covid issues, there are some really big health and care questions that need addressing.
As a starter, we need to translate what some see as the catchy soundbite of “parity of esteem for mental health and physical care” into outcomes that are measurable and sustainable. We need to achieve a whole-system strategy so that advances in early disease detection are not wasted through a lack of early-treatment capabilities. We need to level up healthcare and ensure equal access across the country to innovative medicines and medical devices.
I grew up in a medical family. My mother was a nurse and there were doctors in the family making their way through the system. Seeing firsthand the challenges for our health and care system in meeting complex needs was what first brought me into politics. With wide business experience and over 17 years political experience in health and care, I have the breadth of knowledge to be able to join the dots between interconnected, complex issues.
I have an established and strong network across the healthcare community which will help promote the vital connections between stakeholders and the Committee. In Parliament, I established two health-related APPGs, one on rural health and social care and one on access to medicines and medical devices: both have produced groundbreaking reports. I have served on the Health and Social Care Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee (as lead on most health and care related inquiries). And as chair of Health Overview and Scrutiny at West Sussex County Council, I know how challenging it can be at the local level to implement constantly changing structures in primary, secondary and tertiary care.
However, no individual, or indeed party, has a monopoly of healthcare wisdom. The committee must be proactively inclusive in how it shapes its work. It must be a positive agent for change, collaborative in its outlook and flexible in its approach. The chair needs to be independently minded to avoid groupthink, able to promote constructive challenge, and to be relentlessly evidence-led: I believe I have those qualities.
It is often said that the role of a select committee is to hold the government to account, but that runs the risk of hearings and inquiries being regarded as some kind of adversarial experience. The approach should aim to be that of an honest and critical friend, monitoring progress towards government’s stated objectives and challenging policy when needed. The committee’s measure of success should not be the yards of media coverage, nor the political point scored, but the extent to which it helps create the conditions for success.
Jane gets her post-operation test results this week. We owe it to her, people like her and our health and care professionals, to enable the changes they need and deserve. That is why I’m standing to be chair of the Health and Care Select Committee.
Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot.
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