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Vulnerable Groups (Access to Health Care)

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

9. Whether he has recently reviewed how access to health care treatment can be made easier for vulnerable groups; and if he will make a statement. [Interruption.] (129943)

I am so sorry, Mr Speaker, I was getting carried away. It is my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) who has asked a question, is it not? [Interruption.] It does not help when the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) shouts at me. I am at a profound disadvantage, because I cannot shout back—not that I would ever want to raise my voice, of course. I do not seek sympathy, just parity. Opposition Members should listen with great care. This Government introduced in statute an absolute duty on the NHS to ensure that health inequalities, which, of course, rose under the previous Administration, are at last reduced.

My constituents in Deal are concerned that consultant out-patient services may be withdrawn from their much-loved hospital. Is it not right that GP commissioners should be particularly mindful of services to vulnerable people in rural areas who find it hard to travel?

Indeed it is. That is one of the great joys of the CCGs. As other Ministers have alluded to, we are putting commissioning decisions into the hands of the people who know best—the health professionals. When they exercise their commissioning responsibilities, we urge them to ensure, as I am sure they will, that they deliver the very best services for the people they serve.

On the question of vulnerable groups, does the Minister support the proposal of the hon. Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) to ration NHS drugs, either by adopting the Danish system in which people have a personal budget for drugs and have to pay to top up, or by removing the right to free prescriptions for long-term conditions such as diabetes? Does she appreciate how much harder that would make life for millions of people in vulnerable groups, or is this the real face of the coalition on the NHS—drug rationing?

At my ministerial surgery last night, which has been somewhat scorned by Opposition Members, I met my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) and discussed his proposals at length. I do not agree with his proposals, but I welcome the debate. There is nothing wrong with a healthy debate. However, on this one, he and I disagree.