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NHS Financial Performance

Volume 529: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2011

2. What assessment he has made of the financial performance of the NHS in 2010-11; and if he will make a statement. (57812)

Financial performance in the NHS in the last year has been strong. As at quarter three of financial year 2010-11, the strategic health authorities and primary care trusts were forecasting an overall surplus of £1,269 million, and the NHS trust sector was forecasting an overall surplus of £132 million. I expect the 2010-11 final year-end surplus to be no less than this forecast, representing about 1% of the budget, broadly in line with plans.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his response. My constituents will be pleased that the NHS performed on a sound financial basis nationally. What increases will the NHS receive in my local area of north Yorkshire in 2011-12, and can my right hon. Friend confirm that those increases are the result of the Government’s decision to protect the NHS?

In 2011-12, NorthYorkshire and York primary care trust will receive £1,207.3 million. That represents a cash increase over last year of £34.7 million, or 3%. That exactly represents our coalition Government’s commitment to protect the NHS and to increase its budget in real terms, and it is in stark contrast to what we were told we should do by the Labour party and what the Labour Government in Wales have done, which is to impose a 5% real cut in NHS spending in Wales.

Can the Secretary of State confirm my figures that over £20 million has been spent in the north-east of England sacking PCT staff, that that money has come from funds previously earmarked for hospitals, and that there will be at least as many commissioning groups under his arrangements as there are currently PCTs employing managers in those roles? Does not that show that his plans are lunacy not reform, and that they should be taken away and put in the dustbin, not given a simple pause?

I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that in contrast to the last Labour Government it is our intention to increase the front-line staffing of the NHS relative to the staffing of the administration in the NHS. That is why, since the general election, there are 3,800 fewer managers in the NHS and 2,500 more doctors.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that it is a key priority of the Government to reverse a decade of declining productivity in the health service in order to ensure that the resources that are committed by the Government deliver improved access and improved quality of patient care?

Yes, I can. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. Over the last year in hospitals in particular we saw what was approaching a 15% reduction in productivity. That is why we are proceeding with ensuring that across the NHS we recognise not only that there are increasing demands on the NHS, which is why we are increasing the NHS budget by £ll.5 billion over four years, but that that money must be used increasingly effectively to deliver efficiency savings in excess of 4% each year so that we can improve the quality of services for patients.

The Secretary of State spoke in glowing terms of the last year, but the last year has been a catalogue of confusion, incompetence and broken promises. So will he now accept that the Government’s massive mishandled NHS reorganisation is piling extra pressure on NHS services, with nearly £2 billion promised for patient care being wasted on the internal changes? Will he admit that it is patients who will suffer as front-line NHS staff lose their jobs, treatments are cut back and waiting times start to rise again under the Tories?

The right hon. Gentleman asked about performance last year. I told him what the financial performance was. Let me also make it clear that, for example, for hospital in-patients, referral to treatment waiting time has gone down from 8.4 weeks in May 2010 to 7.9 weeks in the latest figures in March, and for out-patients the figure has gone down from 4.3 weeks in May 2010 to 3.7 weeks in the latest figures, so waiting times have improved. We have established the cancer drugs fund, with more than 2,500 patients benefiting from that. We have published and driven down the number of breaches of the single sex accommodation rules: a 77% reduction in those breaches, which Labour never achieved. In the last year we have reduced the number of MRSA infections in hospitals by 22% and C. difficile infections by 15%. I applaud the NHS—

The Secretary of State mentioned a lot of things, but I notice that he did not mention the Prime Minister’s five new guarantees. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State shakes his head as if they do not matter, but perhaps he was not consulted on them. People have seen the Prime Minister make and then break promises on the NHS before, but this time he is breaking his pledges as he is making them. The King’s Fund says that waiting times are going up and the Nuffield Trust says that health funding is being cut in real terms. Privatisation, the break-up of integrated care and the removal of national standards at the heart of the health service are exactly what his health Bill is designed to do. Is that not why MORI shows public concern about the NHS rising rapidly and why people are right to conclude that they cannot trust the Tories on the NHS?

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it very clear that we will not let waiting times rise and that we will improve performance in the NHS right across the board, which was what I was illustrating. I remind the right hon. Gentleman again that waiting times in hospitals are down from 8.4 weeks to 7.9 weeks for in-patients and from 4.3 weeks to 3.7 weeks for out-patients. That is what we are committed to. Chris Ham of the Kings Fund was on the “Today” programme this morning and said on waiting times, “There hasn’t been a great deal of change since the election.” What has changed since the election is that we are improving performance, driving down the number of breaches of the single-sex rules, increasing access to dentistry, cutting the number of managers and increasing the number of doctors. Those are the things we are doing in the NHS, and it is to the benefit of patients that we do.