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NHS Reorganisation Cost

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012

The cost of the NHS modernisation is estimated to be between £1.2 billion and £1.3 billion. That will save £4.5 billion over this Parliament, and £1.5 billion per year thereafter. We will reinvest every penny saved in front-line services.

I am grateful for that answer. The Minister will be aware that the figure he has given is about half what the primary care trusts believe they are required to keep back to fund the reorganisation: they put it at £3.4 billion. Given his answer today, will he write to South Birmingham primary care trust to tell it that it no longer has to hold back £25 million for that purpose and that it can use that money to cut the 18-week waiting list, which has risen by 36% since he assumed office?

May I say, in the nicest possible way, that I think the hon. Gentleman is a tiny bit confused? I think he is confusing the one-off costs of the modernisation with the 2% hold-back figures used by the PCTs, which put aside money—a process instigated by the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), which we carried on—that can be used if a PCT gets into financial problems. If it does not get into financial problems, it can then use the money to invest in front-line services.

The Conservative-led coalition should be congratulated on introducing a measure that will get rid of red tape and bureaucracy by getting rid of strategic health authorities and primary care trusts. Do the Labour Opposition not look like dinosaurs when they try to defend those bodies?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend and I am always reassured when he congratulates the coalition Government, as it suggests to me that we are getting something right. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As everyone who understands health policy in this country recognises, the NHS must evolve to meet changing needs and we are improving effectiveness and efficiency and saving money by cutting out administration and bureaucracy so that we can reinvest in front-line services to look after the health interests of all our constituents.

Figures revealed to the Opposition under freedom of information procedures show that GPs will receive up to £115 an hour for commissioning health care services on top of their existing salary. It makes no sense at all to take GPs away from patient care to become part-time accountants. When the NHS needs every penny it can get, patients will be astounded to hear that the Government plan to pay GPs twice. This comes at a time when 48,000 nursing posts are being axed and £3.5 billion is being set aside for the Minister’s bureaucratic upheaval. Will he now accept that the NHS can ill afford for money to be wasted on a top-down reorganisation that few want? Is it not now time for him to scrap the Bill?

It is nice that the hon. Gentleman got the mantra in at the end—I have been expecting it all through this Question Time. He is wrong; what is important and what this modernisation has at its heart is the need for GPs to commission care for patients, because GPs are best equipped to know the needs of their patients. That is the way forward. Also, we are cutting bureaucracy and administration by 45% so that we can reinvest that money in front-line services. We want to spend money on health care and on improving outcomes, not on managers and bureaucracy.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister on the productive ward initiative? The NHS document “Top Tips for spreading The Productive Ward” says:

“Set a realistic time scale. Take your time and do not rush. Take small steps and complete them before moving on to the next.”

Is this advice generally applicable to NHS reform?

As the hon. Gentleman recognised at the beginning of his question, this is important and excellent advice for nurses and other health care professionals to give care, consideration and attention to all patients so that they can be looked after in an appropriate and caring way. That is the way forward to making the health service more responsive to the needs of patients and to the improvement of health outcomes.

The hon. Lady raises an extremely important point. The whole purpose of the modernisation of the NHS is to enable it to meet the challenges of an ageing population, an increased drugs bill and new medical procedures, so that we can ensure that patients get their treatments, within the responsibilities of the NHS constitution, and do not have to wait undue lengths of time for treatment.