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NHS Reform

Volume 524: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2011

The Government received more than 6,000 responses to the White Paper consultations. As a result, we have significantly strengthened both our approach to implementation and our proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill. We continue to engage widely across the health sector on our modernisation plans.

Is not it only a Tory Government who can bring a system into the NHS whereby doctors get paid more for giving less treatment to their patients? What does the Minister have to say to the chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, who described the plans for the quality premium as “appallingly unethical”?

I have to admire the hon. Gentleman’s sheer gall, because, of course, it was his own Government’s 2004 contract with GPs that enabled them to do less work for far more money.

The Minister will know that a concern about the Government’s health policies is the increased role for the private sector. He will also be aware that at the Christie hospital in Manchester 150 jobs have been transferred from the NHS to the private contractor on that site. Will he give the people of the north-west an absolute guarantee that we will not have twin-track cancer treatment at Christie’s and that there will not be a fast track for the private patient and a slow track for those on the national health?

I can categorically give that assurance to the hon. Gentleman, because there is no two-track system. Where the private sector may provide care, it is to help to raise standards. I imagine he would agree with that, because he fought the general election on this manifesto commitment:

“Patients requiring elective care will have the right…to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at”

the NHS level.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how many representations the Government have received arguing the case in favour of the PCTs in the structure that we inherited at last year’s general election? If, as I suspect, the answer to that question is not very many, is that not because there was a shared commitment between this Government and the previous Government to introduce genuine clinical engagement to the commissioning process?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that question. I can go a little further and say that, to the best of my knowledge, we received no representations to keep the PCTs. He is right when he talks about what the previous Government were seeking to do, and we want commissioning to go to the local level—to GP commissioners, who have the best knowledge of the needs of their patients. The fact that we have so many pathfinders shows that GPs are signing up voluntarily, with enthusiasm, to take part in the scheme.

A consultation is under way on the reconfiguration of children’s heart surgery units. Last week, a number of colleagues from both sides of the House met a number of parents who are campaigning to keep the unit at Leeds general infirmary. Will my right hon. Friend confirm when he will announce his preferred option and what processes will be gone through to reach that decision?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who was present at last Thursday’s Adjournment debate. He will know that the proposals, the options put together and the consultation, which we have just begun, have been organised at arm’s length from Ministers by the joint committee of PCTs. As I said on Thursday, I trust that he will forgive me if I say that it would be totally inappropriate for me to comment, because that might be seen as trying to influence or prejudge the ultimate outcome.

Before the election, the Secretary of State went up and down the country promising that his NHS reforms would save local A and E and maternity services, but on 1 March, during consideration in Committee of the Health and Social Care Bill, when I asked the Minister whether London’s A and E departments would be on the safe list of designated services that will not close, he said that

“I suspect the answer is that no…it will not be a designated service…there is a significant number of A and E services in London. There would not be a need to designate them”.––[Official Report, Health and Social Care Public Bill Committee, 1 March 2011; c. 349.]

Will the Minister now give the House a clear and simple answer to a simple question: will every London A and E remain open under this Government—yes or no?

Mr Speaker, if you had had the opportunity to read the exchange in Committee, you would understand that the hon. Lady’s question is not factually correct. She asked me figuratively what would happen in an urban area as compared with a rural area, and as I explained three times during further interventions from her, my answer was illustrative, not definitive, because that would have been premature. She is trying to scaremonger—causing fear with something that she knows is inherently not true.