Sally Greenbrook joined the BGS in April 2019 as Policy Manager. She has more than a decade of experience in the UK health policy sector, having worked for the Department of Health and, most recently, as Policy Manager for Breast Cancer Now. She has for many years had an interest in the health and care of older people, having written her MA thesis on housing for older people. She tweets at @SallyGreenbrook
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that on Wednesday 24 July 2019, Her Majesty The Queen invited Boris Johnson MP to form a Government and he accepted, thus becoming the UK’s new Prime Minister. Upon taking office, he appointed a largely new Cabinet.
So what impact will this have on the work of the BGS and, most importantly, on the healthcare of older people? Well, the new Prime Minister’s focus will obviously be bringing the UK out of the European Union and he committed several times in both his first speech in Downing Street and his first statement to the House of Commons to ensuring that the UK leaves the EU on 31 October. This comes as no surprise as this is something that Boris Johnson repeated several times during the Conservative election campaign.
However, his first speech as Prime Minister wasn’t just Brexit, Brexit and more Brexit – it was much more wide-ranging and addressed a range of domestic policy issues, including health and social care. For those of us watching live here at the BGS office, this section was of most interest (and surprise) to us:
My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care and so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve. – Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP, 24 July 2019
This is something that BGS called for in our General Election Manifesto in 2017 and again in our priorities for the incoming Prime Minister blog last month. However, we won’t be popping the champagne corks just yet – the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. We are very interested to see what this ‘clear plan’ entails and how the new Prime Minister plans to succeed where others before him have promised and failed.
Also worth mentioning is that amongst all the change in the new Cabinet, Matt Hancock has retained the post of Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. It’s therefore safe to say that work on implementing the NHS Long Term Plan will continue (and indeed in his speech Boris Johnson also committed to ‘ensuring that money for the NHS really does get to the front line’). Hancock will doubtless continue his famous enthusiasm for digital technology within the NHS. However, Hancock has been Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for over a year now and in that time we’ve seen no progress on social care – does the Prime Minister’s speech mean that we will now see real action in this area?
It is of course early days for this Government and it cannot be denied that the country is going through one of the most politically unstable periods in its history - anything could happen from here on in. Here at BGS, we’ve written to both the new Prime Minister and the returning Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, welcoming the emphasis on social care in the Prime Minister’s speech and letting them both know we look forward to working with the new Government to improve healthcare for older people.