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Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 16 July 2013

The Secretary of State was asked—

Tobacco Products (Packaging)

The Government’s policy remains unchanged. We are waiting to see how the legislation recently introduced in Australia pans out before deciding whether to follow.

Given some of the public health Minister’s previous pronouncements, some of us could be forgiven for thinking that the Government’s policy has changed. Will she advise the House, therefore, on who overruled her support for this policy? Was it the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary or Lynton Crosby?

Unfortunately, the hon. Lady has not listened to my last answer or, indeed, to my statement on Friday. The Government’s policy remains unchanged. We are waiting to see the evidence before making a decision. I take the very firm view that the best legislation is based on good evidence.

Of course, there are those of us who believe it is up to the individual to take personal responsibility for their own health and who entirely support the Government’s decision not to have any extension of the nanny state. Does the Minister agree that, before we introduce any new laws on tobacco, we ought to enforce more strictly the existing laws on not selling cigarettes to children?

My hon. Friend makes a number of excellent points with which I agree, save for one: with great respect, standardised packaging would not be an extension of the nanny state, because it would not impinge on anybody’s freedom or right not only to buy cigarettes, but to smoke them. It is all about ensuring that the package is not attractive, especially to young people, who are at risk of taking up smoking.

18. Earlier this year, I met young people from Dudley who set up the Kick Ash project campaigning for plain packaging. They showed me evidence from research that plain packaging would stop young people smoking in the first place, which is something every MP ought to be committed to trying to do. If the Government reject plain packaging, will those young people be right to conclude that the Government take the advice of big tobacco companies and their wealthy lobbyists more seriously than the views of young people in Dudley? (165216)

First, I pay tribute to Kick Ash. I am more than happy to meet those youngsters; they seem to be doing a very good job. Secondly, we are not in anybody’s pocket. I am sure the hon. Gentleman can say he is not in the pocket of any trade unions either. This is an important decision, but we have not made it yet; we are waiting to see how things develop in Australia, and as I say, good laws are based on good, sound evidence. That is the way forward.

Is the high evidential threshold being set for the plain packaging proposals to be applied across Government legislation or only where lobbyists are involved?

I am rather disappointed at that question from my hon. Friend. I can assure him that the Government take all these issues very seriously. I am proud of our emerging record on public health, but as I say, we have yet to make a decision, because, quite properly, we want to see what happens in Australia, and of course we are also waiting to see what happens elsewhere, notably in Ireland, where the Irish Government intend to introduce this policy. It might or might not be successful.

The Minister says, quite correctly, that the best legislation is based on evidence, but should it not also be untainted by the activities of lobbyists? She will be aware that Department of Health officials met Philip Morris Ltd at the end of January this year, but although minutes of meetings with other tobacco companies that occurred at the same time have been released, the Department insists that the minutes of the meeting with Philip Morris have yet to be finalised. Is it not the truth that the Government are trying to cover their tracks over their relationship with Lynton Crosby and his clients and that when it comes to the decision effectively to drop plain packaging for this Parliament, all roads lead back to No. 10 and Lynton Crosby?

I have just seen a piece of straw flying over, which the hon. Lady attempts to clutch at. [Interruption.] “Clutching at straws”—it is a bit lost on the Opposition, but that is more a sign of their difficulties than ours. The minutes of the meeting with that tobacco company have been published this morning. The reason for the delay—I very much hope the hon. Lady is not suggesting for one moment that my officials have been in any way dishonest—is because unfortunately the tobacco company did not agree the minutes, and there was some to-ing and fro-ing. I really wish she would not subscribe to conspiracy theories where they do not exist.

Adult Social Care

2. What recent assessment he has made of the effects on NHS services of changes in local authority spending on adult social care. (165199)

Data on delayed transfer of care suggest that the interface between health and social care has improved since this Government have been in office. In 2012-13, the number of bed days lost because of delays attributable to social care was nearly 50,000 lower than in the previous year.

In May, the King’s Fund report,“Paying for social care” warned that local authority spending is continuing to fall and that fewer people are getting help. It is my understanding that last month an internal NHS document recognised that pressure on social care budgets meant “more delayed discharges”, increasing the problem in accident and emergency. Therefore, cuts to care budgets are increasing delayed discharges. What will the Minister do to tackle that problem?

The right hon. Gentleman would have done well to listen to my answer before he read out a pre-prepared question. In 2012-13, the number of bed days lost because of social care delays was 50,000 fewer than the year before. However, he is absolutely right that we need to do more to ensure better integration and better joined-up care between the NHS and social care. That is what this Government are doing, and that is why we have allocated a £3.8 billion fund to do just that in the spending review.

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is no solution to the economic challenges facing the health and care system—still less any solution to the quality challenges that are increasingly coming to light—that does not involve proper integration of health and care? Is not the decision announced by the Chancellor a couple of weeks ago the first tangible step of a Government delivering a policy that Governments have talked about for a generation?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, as always. He is a tremendous advocate—and has been since his time in office—of integrated health and social care, and of the transformation in the delivery of care that we need to make if we are to better look after patients with long-term conditions and the frail elderly. This Government are the first Government who are committed to doing that. Compare that with the real-terms cut in funding for social care that happened under the last Government, according to the Dilnot report.

17. Bolton hospital has told me that it needs a much greater concentration on social care. Indeed, a recent NHS Confederation survey of NHS chief executives and chairs said that two thirds said that a shortfall in local authority spending had impacted on their services over the past year. Will the Minister finally accept that the Government’s deep cuts to social care are having a serious effect on the ability of the NHS to deliver safe care? (165215)

I am not sure whether the hon. Lady is referring to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services report that was published recently. It is important to look at that report in context and not misinterpret the figures. The report shows that spending has been roughly flat in social care, and the last survey also shows that councils are expecting a small increase in expenditure on social care next year. The 20% or £2.7 billion that is often touted by the Opposition in fact represents savings that councils have made through efficiencies, and that money is obviously being reinvested in front-line care.

Will my hon. Friend give an indication of the long-term cost savings of integrating health and social care, as against the short-term cost of making the changes?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that the figures show that last year alone 50,000 bed days that would otherwise have been wasted were saved by investing in social care and implementing the service transformation that we all require. However, this is about making all NHS and social care budgets go further, and recognising that if we are to improve the care of older people, particularly frail elderly people, we have to invest in more community prevention and community-based care, which is what this Government are doing.

As we have heard, two thirds of NHS leaders have said that the shortfall in social care spending is having an impact on their services. The Minister can try to get rid of that and talk it away, but in week after week of taking evidence in our inquiry into emergency care, the Select Committee on Health has heard the same thing. We know that elderly patients now form a much larger proportion of admissions—40% of admissions to emergency units are people aged 65 to 85. Is not the £1.8 billion cut in spending now really hitting NHS services and making the emergency care crisis worse?

I am afraid that the Opposition are very confused about their figures. As I explained earlier, the £2.7 billion—or 20%—figure represents the savings that councils have made to meet demand, and real-terms spending next year is expected to go up. The point from the ADASS and other surveys is that integration works. This Government are investing in integration. According to the Dilnot report, it was the last Government who cut in real terms the amount of spending going to social care between 2005 and 2010—and the hon. Lady was a member of that Government.

Mental Health

I pay tribute to the work done on this issue by my hon. Friend, as well as by my hon. Friends the Members for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell), for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) and many others. They have done a huge amount to remove the taboo associated with mental health. We are funding the “Time to Change” campaign, with up to £16 million being put in from 2011 to 2015. The programme works to support and empower people to talk about their mental health problems and to tackle the discrimination that so many of them face. It includes for the first time a tailored programme of work for children and young people.

How confident is my hon. Friend that general practitioners are able to make rapid assessments of potential mental health problems, particularly clinical depression, when patients present themselves perhaps for other non-related matters?

We know that a third of GP appointments are mental health-related, so GPs have a lot of experience in tackling mental illness. We also know, however, that it is not covered extensively in GP training, which is why the Royal College of General Practitioners has identified improved care for people with mental health problems as a training priority—this is to be welcomed—through its enhanced GP training programme.

Yet mental health spending has been cut over the last two years and we find ourselves in a position where four in 10 mental health trusts do not have safe levels of staffing. What is the Minister going to do about the funding and the staffing levels in our mental health services?

Of course, the overall health budget will be rising by some £12 billion by 2015, and in relation to mental health, I have to say that I am exceptionally proud of this Government for making mental health such a priority, notably through the mandate. I think we are to be congratulated on at last recognising how important mental health is. In our view, it underpins almost all public health matters and so many of the troubles and conditions that people present to GP surgeries. Therefore, I think we are doing an extremely good job on this subject.

Francis Report (Staffing Levels)

4. What plans he has to implement the recommendation of the Francis report on safe staffing levels. (165201)

We agree with Robert Francis that there is a need for evidence-based guidance and tools to inform appropriate staffing levels. We have set out a number of recommended actions to support appropriate staffing levels in “Compassion in Practice”—the nursing, midwifery and care staff vision and strategy for England.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, but Robert Francis said in his report that minimum safe staffing levels lead to helping patient safety. If the Secretary of State agrees with Robert Francis, why does he not implement that recommendation now?

I do agree with Robert Francis, but as he said in Nursing Times, there is an apparent misunderstanding by many people about what his recommendations actually were. This is what he said:

“I did not recommend there should be a national minimum staffing standard for nursing. The government was criticised for not implementing one, which it is said I recommended, which I didn’t.”

As someone who worked in the public services before my election here, I well understand the pressure put on public servants to cover up bad news. I was contacted by a nurse yesterday who informed me that concerns that were raised at a training day were dismissed by a matron—people were told to put them in the bin. Can the Secretary of State assure us that he will do everything to ensure that nurses who are concerned about staffing levels feel free to speak out and will be protected?

What my hon. Friend says is incredibly important. We must have a culture of openness and transparency inside the NHS, which means that people at the front line feel empowered to speak up if they think there is a problem. That has not happened in the past, and we are going to put it right.

The Secretary of State will make a statement shortly about the Keogh review. Two of the hospitals investigated are Basildon and Tameside. The previous Government left a warning in place on both trusts about patient safety. This Government have ignored those warnings and allowed both trusts to make severe cuts to front-line staff. Tameside has cut 128 nursing posts and Basildon an unbelievable 345. Given the warnings he inherited, why on earth has he allowed that to happen?

I am very surprised that the right hon. Gentleman wants to mention what happened at Tameside. Tameside had high death rates for eight years under Labour. The previous Government ignored a whistleblower in 2005, warnings to Parliament in 2006, a coroner’s report in 2006 and warnings from my predecessor in 2009. To cap it all, in 2009 the hospital was given a “good” rating by the Care Quality Commission. How bad is that?

I am afraid the Secretary of State is simply wrong. At the instigation of my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), I ordered unannounced inspections into Tameside. The Secretary of State should get his facts straight before he comes to this Dispatch Box. He did not answer on staffing, and it gets worse, Mr Speaker. Seven of the 14 hospitals in the Keogh review have between them cut a shocking 1,117 nursing jobs on this Government’s watch. Unsurprisingly, A and E performance has plummeted at all seven. All 14 hospitals were meeting the A and E target in my time in office; none of them are meeting it under the Secretary of State. Is not the right response to the Keogh review to stop dithering and act now on safe staffing levels?

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about the Keogh review before we have made our statement. I am particularly surprised because the Keogh review is the review that Labour never wanted to have, with high death rates in all those hospitals stretching back to 2005 and a record of inaction by Labour. As former—[Interruption.] I think the House might be interested to hear this. as former Labour councillor and Mid Staffs campaigner Ken Lownds said today:

“Can you imagine a Keogh review under Andy Burnham or any Labour Health Secretary? Not a chance.”

Children’s Heart Surgery (Review)

5. Whether the new review of children’s heart surgery units will cover adult as well as paediatric cardiac surgery. (165202)

Can NHS England assure us that a clear link will be shown between the feedback from patients, the public and stakeholders and the final configuration of services in the review of the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit?

Let me first pay tribute to the work my hon. Friend continues to do in support of his hospital and his children’s heart unit. NHS England has told me that individuals and patient organisations have all been encouraged to engage with and contribute to the local review process. The feedback received will be used to help to inform the outcome of the review of children’s heart surgery at Leeds.

East of England Ambulance Trust

6. What plans he has to meet the acting chief executive of the East of England ambulance trust to discuss that trust’s recovery plan. (165203)

The NHS Trust Development Authority is working with the trust to review its action plan and monitor progress in response to the findings of the recent governance review and the Marsh report. Ministers will keep the situation under review.

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of the efforts and professionalism of front-line staff, the organisation has been badly led and has lurched from crisis to crisis? Does he have confidence in the new management team and the recovery plan? Does he not agree that the time might have come to break up this large organisation and move it into smaller units that are closer to the communities?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question and his diligent local campaigning on the issue. He is absolutely right that the Marsh review highlighted a failure of leadership at the trust and in the trust board as well as a disconnect between the front-line staff, who work effectively and well, and that leadership. We now have a new team at the top and we must give it time to respond to the Marsh report and put in place the right measures. I believe that efficiencies can be made at a back office and regional level, but there is a good case for ensuring that more localised data are presented about ambulance response times countywide.

The East of England ambulance service is failing to meet the needs of patients on the Secretary of State’s watch. The hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) has said:

“This did not used to happen.”—[Official Report, 25 June 2013; Vol. 565, c. 19WH.]

The hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) has said:

“Lives are put at risk.”—[Official Report, 25 June 2013; Vol. 565, c. 2WH.]

Does the Minister agree with those Members, and does he believe that clinical outcomes for patients in the east of England have been affected by the collapsing service over which he has presided?

The hon. Gentleman would do well to heed the Marsh review before asking his questions, because it highlights a fundamental, systemic failure of leadership at the ambulance trust which dates back to the last Government’s time in office. As we know, the number of NHS managers in the east of England rose by 86.4% under the last Government, but there was a lack of connection between the managers of the trust and front-line staff. Government Members are promoting clinical leadership, and trusting clinicians and front-line paramedics to deliver a much better ambulance service. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should prepare his questions more thoroughly in future, and should read the Marsh review before he asks them.

Health Services (Worcestershire)

7. What recent assessment he has made of the joint service review on the future of health services in Worcestershire. (165204)

The configuration of local health services is a matter for the local NHS. Commissioners in Worcestershire are working with local health care providers and stakeholders to develop proposals for the future provision of acute services across the county, which will be subject to public consultation later this year.

Does the Minister agree that the people of Redditch deserve to see the implementation of the two options that he promised in Westminster Hall in February, after 18 months of indecision and uncertainty in Worcestershire about the future of our hospitals, including Alexandra hospital, which he visited with me?

It was a great pleasure to visit my hon. Friend’s local hospital, and I agree that it is time that consultation took place on firm proposals. The proposals that we discussed during the Westminster Hall debate appeared to me to have considerable merit, and I understand that local commissioners will present them in a timely manner later this year.

Kettering General Hospital

8. What assessment he has made of recent improvements in services to patients at Kettering general hospital. (165205)

Monitor, as the regulator of foundation trusts, is working with NHS England, the Care Quality Commission and local commissioners to ensure that the trust has robust plans to make the necessary improvements. The emergency care intensive support team has given the trust advice and support to help it to develop plans to improve its A and E performance.

Will the Minister congratulate all those at Kettering general hospital who have been involved in various recent developments? For instance, urology patients are being given the anti-cancer drug mitomycin C, which halves the risk of a recurrence; a CT scanner that is 10 times more powerful than its predecessor is facilitating CT angiography; and 44% of colorectal operations—twice the national average—are being performed on a keyhole basis.

I am happy to commend Kettering general hospital for some of the improvements in care that have been made recently. My hon. Friend will, of course, want to ensure that that progress is sustained during the weeks and months ahead. As he will know, Monitor is still overseeing the trust to ensure that patient care and performance remain up to standard.

I welcome the comments of the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone). Kettering general hospital also serves my constituents, and I look forward to meeting the Minister this week to discuss the pressures that are being imposed on it. One of the trust’s main problems is having to spend money from its acute budget on local care home beds. Does the Minister recognise that that should not be happening?

The approach that must be adopted to ensure that health and social care services are joined up in the way that we need will vary in different parts of the country, and in accordance with differing health care needs and demographic challenges. I look forward to discussing that and other issues further when I meet the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) tomorrow or on Thursday.

NHS 111 Service

NHS 111 is now available in more than 90% of England. Despite some problems with the sites where it was launched around Easter, performance has now stabilised significantly. NHS 111 is now the principal entry route for access to the urgent care system, and nearly 600,000 patients accessed the service in May.

Let me take the opportunity to make a confession to the House. Six weeks ago on Friday, I rang 111 as I watched one of my best friends vomit. She had been vomiting for 10 days, had been to see her GP four times, and had telephoned 111 on two occasions, on each of which she was told to go away and take antibiotics.

I did what no Member of Parliament wants to do. I said to the operator, “I am an MP, and I will take this up in the House if you do not deal with it properly.” Forty minutes later an ambulance arrived, and my friend was saved from a massive heart attack. What happens to people who have no one to speak for them, and no one who can say “I am an MP”?

The hon. Lady makes a very important point and I do not want to defend that service in the instance she cited at all. It is completely unacceptable if that kind of thing has to happen. The principle of 111—which is for people to have an easy-to-remember number and to be able to be connected to a clinician directly if they need to be, which did not happen with NHS Direct—is a good one, but it is not happening in practice as much as it needs to be. We are broadly meeting our operational standards, but it is not good enough and she has given a very good example as to why.

First, may I thank the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), for responding to the recent debate we held on this issue? When it was my own father in those circumstances, I did not say that I was an MP, as I felt that would be an abuse of the system. I am delighted that North Yorkshire has reported no problems since 111 was introduced, but there is the issue of the deficit for clinical commissioning groups, which we hope will not detract from the 111 service. Can the Secretary of State assure us that the review of funding will be brought forward at the earliest possible moment?

I am pleased the 111 service worked more satisfactorily in my hon. Friend’s case. NHS England is working on the funding formula and it hopes to make any necessary changes in time for the next funding round, which starts in April 2014.

Ministers were repeatedly warned about problems with their 111 roll-out by the Royal College of Nursing, the British Medical Association, the Ambulance Service Network and private providers, but they ploughed on regardless. The result was patients left waiting hours for call-backs, more ambulances sent out and more pressure on already struggling A and Es. I am sure the Secretary of State is aware of the pattern of the seasons, so if he wants to avoid another A and E crisis this winter, can he explain why Bruce Keogh’s review of urgent and emergency care will not even report until next spring?

Actually, the hon. Lady is wrong, because Bruce Keogh’s review of urgent and emergency care with respect to vulnerable older people, and particularly with respect to the way the 111 service operates, will report this autumn, precisely so that we can make sure we learn any lessons we need to learn for this winter, and it is very important that we should do so.

Muscle-wasting Conditions

10. If he will take steps to ensure that people affected by muscle- wasting conditions in the South East Coast NHS area are adequately supported after September 2013; and if he will make a statement. (165207)

NHS England commissions some elements of neurological services through specialist services commissioning arrangements, while clinical commissioning groups commission general neurological services. I am informed that the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and the Surrey and Sussex area team are considering funding the care pathway adviser post for a further six months.

I thank the Minister for her answer, but an exploration just for the potential of a mere six months’ reprieve is not good enough. As things stand, for people with muscular dystrophy and their families in the South East Coast region, from September, that is set to be the only part of the country without access to a local care and support advocate. Therefore, will the Minister agree to meet me as a matter of urgency to discuss what can be done to ensure long-term funding for that vital post, which sufferers and their families want to see continue?

The simple answer is absolutely yes. My hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) has also raised this matter through parliamentary questions and the like. I am more than happy to have that meeting.

Vulnerable Older People

We are taking a great deal of measures to improve services for vulnerable older people, who make up the bulk of the work the NHS does, and in particular to make sure they are always treated with dignity and respect.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Earlier this year the Care Quality Commission found that people with dementia end up in hospital more often, stay longer and are more likely to die there. What can he do to encourage greater provision of good-quality specialist care places for patients with dementia in the community?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Nearly 60% of people with dementia are in a care setting, but one of the tragedies is that many of them could continue to live healthily and happily at home for much longer if they were given the support that they needed. Often, however, that support does not arrive until it is too late, when the carer or family member is under too much pressure to be able to look after them. The dementia diagnosis rate at the beginning of this Parliament was less than 40%, but our objective is to get that up to two thirds by the end of the Parliament. Also, we want to ensure that a proper care plan is in place for the two thirds who are diagnosed, so that we can avoid the problems that my hon. Friend has highlighted.

Last week, the all-party parliamentary group on dementia published its report, “Dementia does not discriminate”, which deals particularly with the impact of dementia on people from black and minority ethnic communities. There are now 25,000 people from those communities living with dementia—far more than we expected—yet they often receive their diagnoses even later than people with dementia in the rest of the population. Will the Secretary of State fund an awareness campaign through Public Health England aimed at those communities to drive up the diagnosis rates? Will he also ensure that the clinical commissioning groups are commissioning appropriate support services in those communities so that we can provide proper services for everyone living with dementia?

I congratulate the right hon. Lady, who is a long-time campaigner on dementia issues. She has raised a really important issue, and I will certainly talk to Public Health England about raising awareness. For those groups, as for everyone, we need to ensure that there is a good care plan in place when they are diagnosed. There is some resistance in the GP community to giving a dementia diagnosis, partly because many GPs worry that not much will happen as a result. We need to ensure that there is a good plan in place, and that is particularly the case for ethnic minority communities.

Does the Secretary of State agree that areas that are grappling with the highest burdens of chronic illness and disability should receive the highest NHS allocations? Does he have any idea why the NHS Commissioning Board has rejected the advice of the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation and decided instead to perpetuate the systematic underfunding of areas that serve older people?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that NHS resources must be allocated in a way that fairly reflects the need for the NHS in every area. Rurality and age are two important factors in that regard. I can reassure him that the current allocations are not set in aspic. The problem with the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation that NHS England received before was that they would have meant increasing resources to the areas with the best health outcomes at the expense of those with the worst ones. NHS England thought that that would be inconsistent with its duty to reduce health inequalities, but it is looking at the issue this year and we all hope that it will make good progress.

We all know that one of the most important drivers for improving the quality of care for vulnerable and elderly patients is to ensure the adequate training and regulation of health care assistants. That is something that Labour and Sir Robert Francis QC have called for, but that the Government have so far ducked. Will the Secretary of State now accept that crucial Francis recommendation to help to drive up care standards for the elderly and the vulnerable—yes or no?

The reasons that Robert Francis recommended statutory regulation of health care assistants were twofold. First, he wanted to ensure that people who had been involved in incidents of poor care could not pop up somewhere else in the system. Secondly, he wanted to ensure that everyone had proper training. We are going to solve both those problems, but I am not convinced that a big new national database of 300,000 people is the way to do it.

South London Healthcare Trust

12. What recent progress his Department has made on negotiations with acute providers on the capital and revenue costs of implementing the recommendations of the special administrator of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust.

Decisions on funding for each individual hospital are being worked through as part of the implementation planning process, in collaboration with the Department, to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. Decisions need to ensure that capacity is available in the right place and that quality and safety are maintained.

Is it true that King’s College hospital wants £109 million in capital funding alone to cover changes at the Denmark Hill site and at the Princess Royal hospital, given that in January the Secretary of State announced £73 million of additional investment for all the other hospitals in south-east London to deal with displaced patients from Lewisham? Will the Minister explain where the money is coming from? Will she also tell us whether all this will be centrally funded, or whether local commissioners will be asked to pick up the tab?

What I can say is that it will be centrally funded, but as to the other detail in the hon. Lady’s question, I will have to write to her with those answers. As ever, my door is open and I am more than happy to meet her to discuss it further.

Clinical Commissioning Groups

13. What plans he has to increase the management capability of doctors elected to clinical commissioning groups. (165210)

Clinical commissioning groups have the freedom and autonomy to determine the skills and expertise needed to enable them to deliver improved outcomes for their local communities, and NHS England is developing an assurance framework to ensure that they all have the capacity and capability to do that.

Is the Secretary of State aware that a number of doctors, certainly the ones I have talked to, are deeply concerned about the inadequacy of their management capabilities to run these complex organisations? Is he worried that many of them are saying that they have to turn to private health care people to back them up and give them advice? Is that healthy in the NHS?

I am absolutely aware that there a lack of clinical leadership, and when we go on to the statement later today, I am sure that we will be discussing what needs to be done to improve the quality of leadership, particularly clinical leadership. Very often the best leadership in any hospital or any commissioning group comes from clinicians, and we have much work to do to make that happen. But I do not think that that means that we should duck the challenge; we just have to get on and make sure that people have the right training and can be supported to do the job we need them to do.

The Secretary of State seems to be answering a different question. The question was about management training for doctors who are being put in the position, without any training and with no consultation—many are doing this against their wishes—of having to manage in a way that they have never been trained to do and are not inclined to do. Would it not be better to put in place the assurance and the training he talks about before rushing into this madcap reorganisation, which the Government did?

May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, first, these people are not doing these jobs against their will, as they volunteered to do them? Secondly, the quality of CCGs is being assured very closely, and they are receiving a lot of support. But it is a big job because, generally speaking, we want more clinical leaders. They need support in learning management skills in order to do that job well, and across the whole NHS we need to be doing that better.

Will the training of clinical leaders include training in legal advice about mergers? I was shocked to see a response from Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust showing that they had already spent more than £1.5 million on legal advice about their merger, which has been prevented by the Competition Commission, and that in future they expect to spend £6 million on this scheme. Is it right that our health money should be going on legal advice?

No, and I am as concerned as the hon. Lady that it is difficult to push through the mergers that local commissioners want to happen. We have to operate within the framework of European law, but we are looking at what we can do to make it easier for these things to happen.

Health Tourism

14. What steps he is taking to tackle health tourism and ensure a fair system of contribution to the costs of the NHS. (165211)

On 3 July, my Department and the Home Office launched co-ordinated consultations on a range of proposals on a new charging system for visitors and migrants in which everyone makes a fair contribution to health care. Those include making temporary migrants from outside the European economic area contribute to the cost of their health care, and introducing easier and more practical ways for the NHS to identify and charge those not entitled to free health care.

I very much welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend and support the new visa fee proposal for non-EU foreign nationals who come here and receive NHS treatment. May we also have an assurance that the treatment of EU nationals will be properly audited in the NHS, so that those costs can be recovered through the European health insurance card scheme?

My hon. Friend is right to point to the fact that we estimate that we collect less than half the money for which we invoice for “overseas operations” and we identify fewer than half the people who should be invoiced in the first place—that applies in respect of those from inside the EU as well as from outside the EU. We can get refunded for the care we give EU nationals if we are sensible about collecting this money and we put those systems in place. Given the pressures in the NHS, we are absolutely determined to make sure we do so.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. Last year health tourism cost the NHS £24 million—that was in one year alone. He has outlined the new system coming in, but will he say how it will be administered? Many of us feel that it might not be as easy to do in practice as it is on paper.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If this is to work, we need a slick system that is easy for hospitals to operate. We have done this in another area, as the NHS successfully and seamlessly invoices insurance companies for the costs of coping with road traffic accidents. At the moment, however, if hospitals declare that someone is chargeable for their NHS care, they do not get paid by the NHS for that care, meaning that they have to collect the money themselves from overseas, so the incentives for hospitals are wrong and we need to sort them out.

20. I welcome the Government’s initiatives to tackle health tourism, but what is being done to help hospitals on the front line, such as Bournemouth hospital, better to identify chargeable visitors? (165218)

We are considering whether something can be done with the NHS number. At the moment, people can visit any GP and, completely legally—whether or not they are entitled to NHS care—get an NHS number. That number can then become a passport that can be used throughout the system, so we are examining whether there is a way of giving people either a temporary NHS number, or a different NHS number, that can be tracked through the system so that if they undergo complex medical care that is chargeable, we are able to trace that and collect the money from them.

If we are to make this work, do not we need a clearer idea about the real cost? Is it the £200 million that the Secretary of State has been quoted as using, the £10 million suggested by the Prime Minister, or the £33 million that the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), has cited in a parliamentary written answer?

The truth is that we do not know the cost, which is why we are carrying out an independent audit this summer. The £12 million figure is the amount written off by the NHS each year because of unpaid overseas invoices, but many people think that the costs are much greater. We want an answer for the hon. Gentleman and everyone in the House, so we are carrying out that independent audit and we will publish the results later in the autumn.

Topical Questions

I know that the whole House will want to recognise the fact that this month marks the 65th anniversary of the NHS. This country blazed a trail by introducing universal health care coverage in 1948, and the NHS remains the single biggest reason why most people are proud to be British. The whole House will want to note that whatever failings are being exposed by a new era of transparency in NHS care, the overwhelming majority of doctors, nurses, health care assistants and managers do a remarkable job, working incredibly long hours for the benefit of us and our families, and we salute them for all they do.

When changes were made at Lewisham hospital, the Secretary of State refused to meet local campaigners. Following his announcement last week about changes to services at Trafford general hospital, local campaigners from Trafford would like to know if he is prepared to meet them.

That is not quite a fair representation of what happened in the case of Lewisham, or indeed for Trafford, because I agreed to meet all local MPs regarding Lewisham. These things are carefully constrained by what is legally possible so as to be fair to all sides, but I met all Lewisham MPs. As the hon. Lady knows, I have agreed to meet her—I think that we are meeting later this afternoon—and I am sure that she will express the concerns of campaigners in Trafford.

T5. Integrating health and social care is an especially important priority in areas with the fastest-ageing populations. With that in mind, do Ministers agree that it is vital to support joined-up initiatives such as Caring Together in north-east Cheshire, which involves the local clinical commissioning group, council and NHS trust? (165228)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight such initiatives. That was why the Government, as part of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, set up health and wellbeing boards, which bring together housing providers, the NHS, the third sector and social care locally so that they can look at how to improve and better integrate personalised care, especially for the frail elderly.

T2. In the 1960s and 1970s, the drug Primodos was given to pregnant women, resulting in serious birth defects in thousands of babies, who are now adults in their 40s. The then Committee on the Safety of Medicines failed to act in time, the scientist at Schering, the drug manufacturing company, accepted subsequently that he had made up his research, and the solicitor Peter Todd has described the events as the biggest medical and legal cover-up of the 20th century. Will the Secretary of State meet me and the victims of Primodos so that we can present our evidence on what has happened? (165224)

The hon. Lady is right to highlight the fact that when we have scientific and clinical data, they must be used responsibly, as the MMR scandal also indicated. Of course I would be delighted to meet her to talk through this matter further.

T8. In advance of the publication of the Keogh report later today, and following the revelations that Basildon hospital had one of the highest standard mortality rates following catastrophic failures, will my right hon. Friend assure the House and my constituents that he will support the new management regime in its attempts to improve the quality of care? Will he also tell the House if he found any evidence of a systematic attempt by the previous Prime Minister and the previous Government to cover up figures— (165231)

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not abuse topical questions to ask two questions, and he should be asking not about the policies of the previous Government, but about the policies of the present Government, on which I know the Secretary of State will briefly reply. We are grateful.

We will, of course, give every support to the management at Basildon to turn around their hospitals. The wonders of modern technology have informed us that the shadow Health Secretary was wrong to say that there has been a decline in nursing numbers in Basildon: they have actually gone up by nearly 100 since the last election.

T3. The Francis report recommended that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence draw up minimum safe staffing levels that would be policed by the Care Quality Commission. It stated that NICE should develop“evidence-based tools for establishing”the staffing needs of each service in the NHS which is likely to be required“as a minimum in terms of staff numbers and skill mix.”Will the Minister tell us when the Government will act on this and all the recommendations in the report? (165226)

If the hon. Lady heard the exchange earlier, she will know that what Robert Francis was recommending was evidence-based tools, not a national minimum staffing level. The reason for that is that the number of nurses needed varies from hospital to hospital and ward to ward. We need to make sure that that happens. In the best hospitals it already does. The system that we have—this was supported by the shadow Health Secretary in his evidence to the Francis review—is not one where the Secretary of State sits behind his desk and dictates the number of nurses required in every hospital. If we did that, we would not be able to run the NHS properly, but we need to make sure that there are proper standards in place, which is why we have a chief inspector of hospitals to make sure that that happens.

T9. It is right that clinicians should speak out about safety in our hospitals, but does my right hon. Friend agree that now is probably not the right time for clinicians to be speculating in the national media about the safety at Leeds heart unit, given that the Department has yet to release the second phase of the review, as this endless speculation is causing great anxiety to already worried parents? (165232)

I agree with my hon. Friend. He has campaigned very honourably and sensibly for children’s heart services at Leeds. This is not a time for speculation. We will announce this month what the new process will be for resolving Safe and Sustainable. He and I both want this to happen as quickly as possible to remove that uncertainty. Also, we have to find a way of making sure that the data are solid and that we can trust them.

T4. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Abbey primary school on becoming the first “silver star” school in Leicester for banning sugary drinks and for promoting healthy eating and exercise? Does he agree that this is the best way of preventing diabetes and obesity in later life? (165227)

Absolutely. I would be delighted to come along and visit the school. May I give full credit to the right hon. Gentleman for his campaign and to the Silver Star charity, which does great work? That is why it is so right that we put public health back in local authorities, where it should always have been and where it was, historically. This sort of local action is very much the way forward, so I congratulate the school and the right hon. Gentleman again.

Further to the question raised by the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), I have met the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) regarding safe staffing levels and I provided a substantial file of evidence on behalf of the Florence Nightingale Foundation in support of its 1:8 registered nurse to patient ratio. What part of that evidence are Ministers unconvinced by?

I am sure the evidence to which the hon. Gentleman refers is very persuasive, but I am sure he would agree that a ratio such as 1:8 cannot be applied uniformly across his local hospital or across all local hospitals. It can vary from day to day, depending on the level of illness and the age of the people going into particular wards. The best hospitals have computer models that change the numbers of nurses operating in different wards on a daily basis. Other hospitals do not do that, except on a quarterly basis. That is the change that we need to make.

T6. Does the Secretary of State believe that making data on individual consultants public is pointless if hospitals are using informal mechanisms to frustrate patient choice, such as having a team of specialist nurses decide which consultant a patient is referred to? Will he reinforce patient choice and dissuade hospitals from doing that? (165229)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fact that we need more transparency in data and that patients have a right to know about the quality of surgical care, but it is also right that we need to look at that carefully across the different surgical specialties, and particularly at the different criteria that might also impact upon good care and good health care outcomes, particularly in oncology.

Two-year-old Oliver Rushton in my constituency has cerebral palsy and needs a selective dorsal rhizotomy if he is to be able to walk or stand on his own. Unfortunately, after considerable delay, Oliver’s request for NHS treatment has been turned down. He is now getting the treatment, but only after an incredible fundraising effort from his parents, who have personally raised £40,000 to pay for it. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss the case?

I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that case and the commissioning arrangements for the procedure, and indeed other treatment for patients with cerebral palsy.

T7. The guidance that the Government have produced on transferring funds from the NHS to local authority social care makes it clear that the money can be used to plug gaps in social care caused by cuts. Does that not just mean that the local authorities that are under most pressure because they have had the biggest cuts will not be in a position to develop the integrated health and care services that we would all like to see? (165230)

I hope that I can reassure the hon. Lady, because the conditions for accessing that £3.8 billion fund are absolutely clear. Local authorities will not be able to access it unless they can promise to maintain services at their current levels. They are allowed to make financial efficiencies, as is the NHS, and everyone needs to look at that, but not if it means a deterioration in services.

Being able to be visited frequently by one’s loved ones is a vital part of improving care for vulnerable older people in acute settings. How is closeness to home being taken into account in any service changes proposed by Monitor or the NHS Trust Development Authority?

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on the admirable way he sticks up for his constituents in Stafford in incredibly difficult circumstances. I think that the whole House recognises what he has done. Secondly, in answer to his question, there is always a balance to be found, because we all recognise that, all things being equal, people would rather be treated nearer to where they live for exactly the reasons he gave. We also need to ensure that people get the best care when they arrive at hospital, which is why it is very important to go through these difficult processes to work out where that balance lies.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the increasing problems there are in A and E because of alcohol? If so, will he tell us what he is going to do about it?

There are problems, particularly in large cities and at weekends. In fact, in the case of the reorganisation of services at Trafford general hospital, one of the things that we can invest in as a result is mental health facilities in neighbouring A and Es so that people have better access to the services they need.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the case of Nadejah, the face of the Teenage Cancer Trust, who at the age of 23 has been refused the CyberKnife cancer treatment that could save her life. Her mother Michelle is here today. Will he intervene so that this young woman gets the treatment that her consultant, Professor Hochhauser, recommends, and will he meet Nadejah’s mother and me so that we can work together to unblock the funding so that she can get the treatment she so desperately needs?

I am more than happy to meet the hon. Lady and the family but, as she knows, this is a treatment that we have talked about endlessly, and we have had many meetings, which I am more than happy to continue to have with her.

Since 2010, thousands of NHS staff have left the NHS with big, fat redundancy cheques, only to go through the revolving door and get new jobs in the NHS, often months later. Will the Secretary of State tell us how much has been spent on redundancy payments and whether he regrets that waste of NHS money?

The hon. Lady asks that question as if that kind of thing never happened under Labour. The answer is that it is not acceptable, which is why we are changing the rules to ensure that people cannot get payoffs and then walk straight into another NHS job. The other answer is that the reorganisation that she criticises means that we have put more money on the front line, including for 6,000 more doctors, which I think was the right thing to do.

Does the Secretary of State agree it is a scandal that those, such as Gary Walker, Amanda Pollard and Kim Holt, who have exposed the horrors buried in our NHS have either been fired or do not have jobs, but those who are heavily implicated in such cases, such as Barbara Hakin—about whom I have written to the Secretary of State—David Nicholson, and others, still do?

My hon. Friend has campaigned long and hard on issues of accountability, and I agree with her basic case, even if I do not agree with her about all the individuals she mentioned. One issue that will arise during today’s statement is that of how people are held accountable. That has been missing in our NHS, and we must put it right.

There has been much talk about action plans and I am sorry that the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), is not in his place. Is the Health Secretary aware that Mencap has expressed concerns that the Government’s response to the “Six Lives” progress report by the Department of Health does not set goals or time scales for tackling the issues highlighted in that report?

I know that the care services Minister would have liked to be here but he is at his son’s graduation today. I will pass on the hon. Gentleman’s question and ensure that he receives a full response.

At the end of this month, the East of England Multi-Professional Deanery will remove junior doctors in paediatric services from Bedford hospital. That will reduce paediatric services, which will obviously cause major concerns for families with children in Bedford and Kempston and north Bedfordshire. Will my right hon. Friend join me and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) in calling for an open and independent inquiry into why clinical supervisory failures continued at Bedford hospital and were not addressed, and into the terrible consequences that resulted from that?

I am sure my hon. Friend will be pleased that Health Education England, supported by the General Medical Council, took such rapid action to address concerns over patient safety and the supervision of junior doctors at his hospital. It is right that a rapid action plan has been brought in by local health care commissioners and Health Education England in order to support that, put in place the right supervision for medical staff, and ensure we put things right as quickly as possible.

Further to the question from the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie), Ministers often—quite rightly—mention the importance of whistleblowers, so why have the Government weakened protection for whistleblowers through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013?

We are strengthening protection for whistleblowers and are going much further by creating a culture of openness and transparency in the NHS, where people are not bullied if they speak out about poor care.

Torbay is often held up as a model for an integrated care service, but two important services are not fully integrated—mental health care and children’s services. Will the Government encourage the incorporation of all services into a fully integrated health care system?

My hon. Friend makes an important point and the heart of what he says is that integrated, joined-up care is most important for those who are regular users of the NHS. Children with complex needs or people with mental health conditions that can improve but not necessarily be cured can really benefit from an integrated approach. I salute what Torbay has done in blazing a trail. We are learning from that and hope that such a process will be rolled out in every part of the country as soon as possible.