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GP and Specialist Health Services

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

12. What steps his Department is taking to increase the availability to patients of GPs and specialist health services. (144348)

The Department of Health is currently working with key partners to support the increase of training numbers in general practice. From 1 April, the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for commissioning primary care medical services and specialised services. It will have a duty to commission those services in ways that improve quality and promote integrated care. Clinical commissioning groups will be responsible for commissioning most other services.

The Minister is aware of the need to increase health care provision in Witham town. Can he reassure me that the appalling financial legacy of Mid Essex primary care trust will not hold back proposals to provide much-needed health care in the town?

I applaud my hon. Friend for repeatedly raising her constituents’ concerns about this subject. We have made it absolutely clear that primary care trusts must work closely with clinical commissioning groups to ensure that they meet the challenges of the current financial year. As for the future, the joint strategic needs assessment and the health and wellbeing boards will provide real accountability locally, and I think that my hon. Friend will be able to feed into that to ensure that her constituents are given the health services that they need.

The Limbless Association wrote to Members of Parliament this month expressing concerns about proposals for the commissioning of extremely specialist prosthetic services, which would reduce patient choice and oblige the patient to follow the money rather than vice versa, and would damage some highly skilled professionals in the field. When did the Minister last meet representatives of the Limbless Association, and will he agree to meet them with me?

I should be happy to meet the hon. Lady and members of the association to discuss those concerns further.

There is currently much talk about the importance of integrated services. Can my hon. Friend assure us that when commissioning primary care, the NHS Commissioning Board will emphasise the importance of integrating it with the other community health services supplied by the NHS, and that social care will be included in that fully integrated service?

I am happy to give my right hon. Friend an absolute assurance to that effect. The Department and I are working closely and collaboratively with both the Commissioning Board and the Local Government Association to ensure that we deliver integrated care, which is much the best way of keeping patients out of hospital and maintaining their condition.

There are plans to increase the number of training places for GPs, with the aim of providing more than 3,000 extra places by 2015. That will fully meet the needs to which the hon. Lady has referred.