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NHS Cost

Volume 551: debated on Tuesday 23 October 2012

The latest estimates of NHS spending are those published in the 2012 Budget. The planned NHS spending for 2012-13 is £108.8 billion.

The Conservative-led coalition Government are increasing spending on the NHS, unlike what Labour would do. In my constituency, we will get an urgent care centre in a few months as a result of Tory health reforms. People in Corby already have an urgent care centre as a result of Tory reforms. Does the Secretary of State agree that, while Labour talks about the NHS, Conservatives deliver on the NHS?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, last week we announced that waiting times are at near-record lows. The number of hospital-acquired infections continues to go down and mixed-sex wards have been virtually eliminated. I am very pleased that my hon. Friend has an urgent care centre, and am sure that Mrs Bone will appreciate it even more than he does.

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the Office for National Statistics survey shows that the mortality rate in north-east England is 12% higher than that in the rest of the UK? Does he recognise the need to invest in more advanced radiotherapy equipment, bearing in mind that 70 of the 212 systems will need to be replaced by 2015?

I would not necessarily expect the hon. Gentleman to follow announcements that are made at the Conservative party conference, but we did make the big announcement that access to radiotherapy will be transformed, making it available to everyone for whom it is clinically necessary and cost-effective. Improving mortality rates is extremely important. As I have set out, one of my key priorities is to transform the NHS so that we have the best mortality rates in Europe. I hope that that is welcome news for his constituents.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there will be less budget pressure on the NHS if we do better with long-term conditions, get better at integrated care and use data better to predict ill health? To that end, will he come and see the work of the Kent Health Commission on those issues?

I would be delighted to see the innovative things that are happening at the Kent Health Commission. Looking at how we deal with people with long-term conditions—that is 30% of the population, and the proportion is growing with the ageing population—will be a vital priority for the NHS over the coming years.

May I welcome the Secretary of State and his new team to their positions? As the only other person to have made the jump from Culture to Health, I am sure that he will find me a constant source of useful advice.

The Secretary of State has not said much since his appointment, but he did set out his mission in The Spectator:

“I would like to be the person who safeguards Andrew Lansley’s legacy”.

Let us talk about that legacy. Just last week, the Secretary of State slipped out figures on the latest costs of NHS reorganisation. Would he care to update the House on the current estimates?

Order. The Secretary of State has been in the House for seven and a half years. I think he knows that we refer to Members by constituency, not by Christian name. It is not difficult.

First, may I say how delighted I am that the right hon. Gentleman and I once again have the same brief? I look forward to having a constructive relationship with him, not with total optimism, but I will try my best.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about my predecessor’s reforms and legacy. One of the finest things about my predecessor’s legacy is that he safeguarded the NHS budget—indeed, he increased it during this Parliament by £12 billion—when the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be irresponsible to increase it.

Look at the figures: the previous Secretary of State gave the budget a real-terms cut for two years running. Let me give the exact figures, which the Secretary of State did not give the House. The costs of the reorganisation are up by 33% or £400 million, making the total £1.6 billion and rising. And what is that money being spent on? A full £1 billion is being spent on redundancy packages for managers: 1,300 have got six-figure pay-offs and there are 173 pay-offs of more than £200,000. Scandalously, that news comes as we learn today that the number of nurse redundancies has risen to more than 6,100. Six-figure pay-outs for managers, P45s for nurses and the NHS in chaos—is that the legacy that the Secretary of State is so proud of?

Let us look at some of the facts. The number of clinical staff in the NHS has gone up since the coalition came to power. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the cost of the reforms, which is about £1.6 billion. Thanks to those reforms, we will save £1.5 billion every single year from 2014 and the total savings in this Parliament will be £5.5 billion. Let me remind him that he left the NHS with £73 billion of private finance initiative debt, which costs the NHS £1.6 billion every single year. That money cannot be spent on patient care. He should be ashamed of that.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that NHS spending will increase in real terms during the lifetime of this Government, and that there are no plans from anyone to close the accident and emergency department and the maternity unit at Kettering general hospital? Will he condemn those who say that the Government want to close the hospital, when nobody is going to do that at all?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: that is a mendacious scare story that is being put out on the ground. Real-terms spending on the NHS has increased across the country, which has not been possible across all Government Departments. Because of that, we are able to invest more in patient care, cancer drugs, doctors and facilities across the country, and indeed in Kettering.