Sajid Javid has said health and social care “begins at home” and people should rely on their families in the first instance rather than on the state.
The health secretary’s comments came during his speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday.
Mr Javid said: “The state was needed in this pandemic more than any time in peacetime. But government shouldn’t own all risks and responsibilities in life. We as citizens have to take some responsibility for our health too.
“We shouldn’t always go first to the state. What kind of society would that be?
“Health – and social care – begins at home. Family first, then community, then the state.
“If you do need support, we live in a compassionate, developed country that can afford to help with that. There are few higher callings than to care for another person.”
The remarks come after the government announced the introduction of a new health and social care tax in September, which will begin as a 1.25 per cent rise in national insurance from April next year.
The controversial plans were met with much criticism from leaders in social care, warning the promised extra £12bn a year would not be enough to address the current crisis.
During his speech, Mr Javid recalled his work volunteering in a care home.
He also warned that NHS waiting list times are set to “get worse before they get better”, promising “the biggest catch-up fund in the history of the NHS”, with a focus on prioritised elective recovery, check-ups, scans and surgeries.
The minister reiterated that when he began his role in June he was told the NHS waiting list could reach 13 million.
Mr Javid said: “My priorities are simple: Covid, recovery, reform. Covid: getting us, and keeping us, out of the pandemic. Recovery: tackling the huge backlog of appointments it has caused. And reform of our health and social care systems for the long term.
“No reform is easy, otherwise it would’ve been done already. But if we get it right, no, when we get it right, we won’t build back the way things were.
“We’ll build a future where our health and social care systems are integrated more seamlessly together, where British life sciences lead the world on new treatments, where we have not only the best surgeons, but robots performing life-saving surgeries.”
Deepening health disparities were also touched upon by the health secretary, who said the gap in healthy life expectancy between Blackpool and Richmond-upon-Thames is almost 20 years. “It’s time to level up on health,” he said.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also touched upon the changes made to fund health and social care, calling the decision to raise national insurance the “least worst option”.
Mr Sunak dismissed VAT for being too regressive, citing instead the “historic link” between National Insurance and healthcare, the former set up originally to pay for the NHS.
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