Once in post, Lamb threw himself into the role with gusto. He combined a heavy Westminster workload – not least ensuring passage of the watershed Care Act – with a remorseless programme of visits to observe care practice and engage with professionals, carers and people who use services. He always seemed accessible: approached by strangers on the train from his North Norfolk constituency to London, he would happily set aside his papers and chat.
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, says: “Norman combined insight and integrity to help ensure a landmark piece of social care legislation was delivered with people across the sector. The time he took to listen to those working at the frontline was always invaluable and appreciated. He can look back knowing that he made a difference.”
One difference that Lamb undoubtedly made, or at least helped in no small part to make, was the greatly enhanced profile of mental health. Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, describes him as “a fantastic advocate” who was clearly passionate about the cause. “As minister, he was involved in a number of key drives to improve mental health services, from the crisis care concordat to the introduction of the first waiting times and access standards for mental health.”