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Strategy and Action Plan: Improving Lives

Volume 663: debated on Tuesday 23 July 2019

17. What progress has been made on implementing his Department’s strategy and action plan, “Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability”, published in November 2017. (912132)

I am pleased to say that we have made strong progress against the commitments in the Command Paper my hon. Friend refers to, and I thank her for her role in delivering those advances. I can advise the House that the number of disabled people in employment is now 400,000 higher than it was in 2017. There is, however, much more to do, and on 15 July we launched a consultation on measures to reduce ill health-related job loss. We are seeking views on how employers can best support people with disabilities and people with long-term health conditions to stay and thrive in work.

I thank the Minister for her really helpful response, and I congratulate her on the fantastic work she has done in her position. Last week, the next Prime Minister announced his intention to look again at the tax treatment of at-work referral health services as a benefit in kind to employees, given how crucial fast access to health and support is to so many people. Will the Secretary of State and the Minister work with the new Prime Minister in bringing forward an urgent review, as the current tax regime goes against our focus on prevention and reducing demand on the NHS?

Absolutely. We will continue with the emphasis on work being good for people’s health. We need to look at what we can do to make it easier for employers to help their employees, which is good for everybody—it means that everyone can still make an economic contribution, and that we retain the existing workforce, and it is good for people’s wellbeing. We absolutely will look at what we can do to incentivise best practice.

It is difficult to see how lives will be improved and people supported to stay in work by NHS England’s decision, supported by Ministers, to encourage CCGs to phase out their walk-in centres—I am thinking, in particular, of the three walk-in centres that serve my constituents. I urge Ministers, even at this late stage, to set aside new funding streams so that Alexandra Avenue, the Pinn and Belmont Health Centre can continue to provide a 365-day, 8 am to 8 pm walk-in service to my constituents.

I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s view on this. Clearly, it is important for CCGs to have the freedom to determine their best primary care arrangements. Walk-in centres are convenient for people who are in work and who perhaps work away from home, but ultimately, we keep people with disabilities in work by having bespoke support for them, and that is better organised by having good primary care services near the home.