We fully recognise how important front-line staff are to the provision of high-quality care. Local organisations are best placed to plan the work force who are required to deliver safe and high-quality services to patients.
Nothing has changed. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the NHS budget is a protected budget, and during the lifetime of the present Parliament it will receive real-terms increases. What the hon. Gentleman may not know is that the number of full-time equivalent clinical staff working in the NHS today is higher than it was in May 2010 and September 2009.
The reality is, of course, that the report from the Royal College of Nursing revealed that thousands of front-line nursing posts are being cut, and that last night a leaked report on commissioning revealed further bad news for front-line staff: that the Government plan to privatise large swathes of the NHS, making GPs “bit-part players”. Does it remain Government policy to promote, in the words of the report,
“a strong and vibrant market”
in the NHS, and, in the words of the Prime Minister, to
“drive the NHS to be a fantastic business”?
The report that was published at the weekend is deeply flawed. It is outrageous for an organisation to seek to scare people for the sake of cheap publicity. That report is as flawed as the report that was published a year ago. Far from there being the 50,000 cuts to which it referred, since May 2010 the number of doctors has risen by 3,500, the number of consultants by 1,600, the number of registrars by 2,100 and the number of qualified radiography staff by 549. Moreover, the number of managers and administration officers has fallen by 14,000 to release money for improved health care.
Front-line staffing levels come under particular pressure in the winter months because of the incidence of winter flu. Does my right hon. Friend welcome the news that at Kettering general hospital, almost 60% of front-line staff have now been inoculated against flu? That compares very well with last year’s national average of 35%.
I join my hon. Friend in congratulating staff at Kettering general hospital on their responsible attitude, and urge other NHS staff throughout the country to follow their example. I am heartened to note that, as a result of the planning and activity that has taken place in the NHS, more staff are having flu jabs than did so last year.