Synod calls for a Royal Commission into NHS future

THE GOVERNMENT has been urged to establish a Royal Commission to consider how the UK’s health and social care needs might best be delivered and financed in the period to 2040.

General Synod unanimously supported a motion brought by the Diocese of Carlisle, endorsing a House of Lords report on the future of the NHS.

The report, Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care, published last April, made over 30 recommendations on areas relating to integration of services – particularly of health and social services, patient responsibility, and funding.

Speaking in the debate, Nick Land, York, said he supported the motion but argued that training, recruitment, and retention of NHS staff was key.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Dame Sarah Mullally, who worked for 30 years in the NHS and was the Government’s Chief Nursing Officer, also welcomed the motion.

She told Synod that the NHS is sustainable ‘if belief in the common good remains at the heart of society’. She also urged ‘solidarity in action’ by the help churches can offer to healthcare through volunteers and ‘creating communities of compassion’. She called the NHS an ‘aspiring act of empathy’.

Alison Coulter, Winchester, a former NHS manager, moved her amendment calling on Synod to ‘expressits heartfelt gratitude for the dedication of NHS and social care staff, and call on local churches to support those working in the NHS and social care, and to pray for them regularly publicly and privately’.

She explained to Synod that only 40 per cent of NHS staff feel happy with the quality of care they are able to deliver, while 35-40 per centreport feeling unwell due to level of stress in the workplace. She said this is partly due to ‘the culture of the NHS’.

She asked Synod to recognise ‘that there are times when performance and quality management by national bodies holding people and organisations to account slips into bullying, which cascades down through organisations and onto staff’.

“This pressure, which I’m sure the Department of Health does not intent to be harmful, is harmful and stressful,” she said.

The amendment was carried.

Gavin Oldham, Oxford, introduced his amendment, to ‘ask the Government to explore a progressive application of mandatory insurance for higher rate and top rate taxpayers in funding their universal participation in the National Health Service’.

However Bishop James called it a contentious recommendation.

The amendment was lost.

Carl Hughes, Southwark, moved his amendment for a Royal Commission to consider ‘how the UK’s health and social care needs might best be delivered and financed in the period to 2040, taking into account expected changes in life expectancy, demography and medical technology’.

He told Synod that Royal Commission would ‘avoid the risk of Government inaction’ and would allow the NHS to be considered outside of partisan politics.

“No single Government is able to address these vital issues,” he argued.

The amendment was carried.

Jane Patterson, Sheffield, a former NHS worker for 43 years, mover her amendment to ‘call upon local churches to lead by example in showing Christian compassion and care to the elderly and vulnerable in our local communities, as we have done historically and is now especially needed, given the shortfall in the funding of social care’.

“Surely 16,000 parishes can do what the State will never be able to do,” she told Synod, urging the Church to ‘reclaim the initiative’.

Jason Roach, London, a former NHS hospital doctor, told Synod that ‘there is not enough community that cares for the common good’ and urged the church to ‘fulfil this role’.

The amendment was carried.

Synod voted unanimously in support of the final motion.