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NHS Reorganisation

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2012

The Department monitors risks associated with the implementation of the health and social care reform programme on an ongoing basis.

“An open, transparent NHS is a safer NHS”: not my words, but those of the Secretary of State for Health. Is it not amazing that Ministers do not want to release documentation relating to the reorganisation of the NHS? Is it not an absolute scandal that they will not publish the documentation? Is it not the fact that the reorganisation of the NHS is looking a bit like the Norwegian blue? Should it not shuffle off the perch?

No, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. As he, or certainly the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), will know, the risk register is an ongoing document—discussions between Ministers and civil servants on the formulation, implementation and transition of policies—and it would be wrong, in my opinion, for it to be published. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State appealed to the tribunal following the decision of the Information Commissioner, in line with the precedent adopted by Secretaries of State in the Labour Government in both the Department of Health and the Treasury.

Does the Minister agree that the risk of not reorganising would be the longer waiting lists, longer waits for ambulances and lower access to life-prolonging drugs that we currently see in socialist-dominated Wales under the Assembly?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and of course he speaks from the authority of living in a country that has a Labour Administration, where we see spending cut, waiting times and lists rising, and utter chaos in the quality of care for patients.

The Minister will know that large numbers of people from Wales, particularly north Wales, access treatment in England. What assessment has he made of the risks to such treatment if the legislation goes through?

If the hon. Gentleman is trying to tease out of me what is in the risk register, I am afraid he will be unsuccessful, but if it is of any reassurance I can tell him that for people living close to the border there have been arrangements between Wales and the English NHS and they will continue. Those people will benefit if treated in England, because waiting times are falling in this country, unlike Wales where they are increasing.

What a pleasure it is to see the Secretary of State here today; he managed to make his way in.

I am afraid I have to describe the Minister of State’s answer as codswallop. Let me give him an example of one risk to the NHS that we already know about. The number of NHS nurses has fallen by 3,500 since the general election, and that figure could be at least 6,000 by the end of this Parliament. The Bill is damaging front-line services in the NHS right now. Why does the Minister not put patients before his, the Secretary of State’s and the Prime Minister’s pride, drop this unwanted Bill, and use some of the money it would save to protect those 6,000 nursing posts?

I have to say that, unfortunately, notwithstanding what the hon. Gentleman thought was a rather clever way of describing my answers, his figures are factually incorrect. As Jim Callaghan once said, an inaccuracy can be halfway round the world before truth gets its boots on. The facts are these: there are 896—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman would listen to the answer he asked for, he might learn something and stop making misrepresentations. There are 86 more midwives working in the NHS—[Hon. Members: “86?”]—896, which is an increase of 4%. There are 4,175 more doctors working in the NHS: an increase of 4%. There are 15,104 fewer administrators working in the NHS—a decrease of 7.4%—and 5,833 fewer managers. There are more doctors. There are more midwives. There are fewer administrators.