Henry Smith MP speech during the 2019 Queen's Speech Debate

Henry Smith MP (Crawley) (Con)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron). This is indeed a very important debate. I am glad that we have had the opportunity to re-emphasise this Government’s commitment to the national health service, not least through record amounts of investment—an additional £33.9 billion is going in between now and 2024—and to discuss the emphasis on putting mental health on a par with physical health. I am delighted that schools in my constituency are part of a pilot in which mental health professionals are in schools to help young and adolescent pupils to deal with those sorts of issues.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health reconfirmed today—this cannot be emphasised enough—that the NHS is off the negotiating table when it comes to the post-Brexit international trade deals, and that it will remain free at the point of use, regardless of people’s ability to pay.

Let me re-emphasise that this Government’s record on the NHS is a good one, but sadly it has not always been under previous Labour Governments. The A&E and maternity units at Crawley Hospital in my constituency closed last decade. Services have now started to return, including a 24/7 urgent treatment centre, a new ward, new beds and primary care services. Mention was made of the NHS being a political football, but it is worth stating that all parties in this House can do better when it comes to supporting our health service.

On my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s first full day in office, I was pleased to seek a commitment for better support for primary care. One challenge in my constituency is that some GP practices are at or even over capacity for a number of reasons, including increased housing in the area and some doctors retiring early. We need to address this issue, particularly as more and more services—such as scans and minor surgery—are provided in GP surgeries, which is better for the patient experience.

I am standing down as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on heart and circulatory diseases, but I am glad that we were able to publish a report on artificial intelligence in the healthcare sector earlier this year. It is a crucial issue that I know the Department of Health takes very seriously, so I was delighted that the Health Secretary attended the launch of the report.

I am pleased to say that I have just been reappointed as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer. I very much support the Government’s commitment, in the long-term plan for the NHS, to ensure that 75% of cancers are diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 by 2028. But blood cancer is different from solid tumour cancers, and is much more difficult to detect. I therefore put in a plea and a bid for the diagnosis of blood cancer to be considered. Blood cancer is the country’s fifth most common and it is the third biggest cancer killer in the UK, but because of the vagueness of symptoms it is often very difficult to detect in GP surgeries. Indeed, ​some 28% of people with a blood cancer are first diagnosed when they present at an accident and emergency department, so it is an area that needs a lot more focus.

In the brief time I have left to speak, let me touch on the importance of developing policy on children’s social care. Regrettably, West Sussex County Council, which covers children’s social care in my constituency, has been judged very poorly in this area and a lot of remedial work needs to be done. As with adult social care, the issue of children’s social care urgently needs to be addressed. It is often treated as the poor relation to healthcare, so it is very important that we place emphasis on the importance of better supporting social care when we talk about the NHS.

I urge the House to reject the amendment because I do not want to see the nationalisation of the production of medicines, which the Health Secretary mentioned earlier. In the context of blood cancer, that would mean that innovative CAR T-cell therapy would not be available.