Reality of Brexit is a government ignoring the NHS

Liberal Democrat president Sal Brinton

Liberal Democrat president SAL BRINTON believes the crisis facing the NHS is being compounded by Brexit and a divided government that can't deal with our public services falling apart

Last Friday on Any Questions Therese Coffey MP was the latest Remain voter and Minister trying to defend Theresa May's position on Brexit.

Like the country, West Berkshire voted 52:48, but the audience in Newbury repeatedly laughed and heckled the Government line. Public attitudes really are changing.

As I said on the programme, Mrs May is asleep at the wheel and the country is heading for a cliff edge.

The Cabinet is so split there is no leadership and they contradict each other at every turn.

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One of the side effects of Brexit is that when parliamentarians meet ministers and civil servants they tell us that their entire focus (as directed from No 10) is on Brexit and there is no capacity to do anything else.

As a member of the Lib Dem health and social care team in the Lords, I see this as systemic financial and structural problems in health and social care aren't being addressed, just denied and shunted off into the long grass.

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Most people only look at accident and emergency waiting times but my yardstick for the level of crisis in the NHS is how society protects the most vulnerable and ill.

Last month it was reported that Oxford hospitals were delaying the start of chemotherapy for some patients. Closer to home, a two-year-old relative who spent most of the first nine months of her life in hospital was due urgent and vital major surgery last June. The delay? No high dependency bed available for four days post operation. The family now have a date next month, subject to that bed remaining free.

Worse, children with the most profound multiple medical conditions and disabilities, such as those accessing care at NHS Nascot Lawn in Watford, face the closure of their specialist nursing respite facility.

The cash-strapped CCG has decided that it is not their statutory duty and has withdrawn support for these families without consultation or finding alternative provision, saying all respite is social care.

Some families are now facing their child going into long-term NHS care because they cannot cope with no respite when they are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and anyone else providing care has to be trained to handle epileptic fits, feeding by tube, delivering specialist medication, and responding to the interminable alarms that warn of heart/breathing or other problems, which standard social carers are not permitted to do.

A permanent placement in the NHS for one child costs £200,000 per annum. The CCG closing Nascot Lawn would save £600,000 per annum, which helps dozens of families a year. This isn't just happening in Watford, it's also across the country.

For elderly care, the NHS and local authorities agree (well argue mostly, but then agree) a split between social care and medical care costs. For these seriously ill but invisible children the NHS is wrongly trying to shunt the responsibility to councils. The result will be no service at all and a significant increase in cost for the NHS. Utterly ridiculous.

Two years ago the Leave campaign's mendacious promise of £350m extra per week for the NHS is still peddled by Boris Johnson despite being resoundingly demolished.

In December the Financial Times collated a range of economic estimates which suggested current bill for leaving the EU looks like costing at least £350m per week.

The reality of Brexit isn't just those lies on the side of the bus, it is the consequence of a divided Government that can't and won't deal with our public services falling apart, nor with how we fund them.

Sal Brinton is the President of the Liberal Democrats and sits in the House of Lords

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