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NHS Reorganisation

Volume 578: debated on Tuesday 1 April 2014

According to official figures, the new structure set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 will save £5.5 billion in this Parliament and £1.5 billion every year after that, all of which will be reinvested in front-line care.

Given that he promised in 2010 that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS, how can the Secretary of State justify spending billions of pounds on top-down reorganisation on the day on which Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of NHS England, has warned that the NHS is facing the biggest

“budget crunch in its 66-year history”?

As Simon Stevens is starting today, I think that this is a good moment to welcome him to his post. He is an outstanding individual, and I know that we all wish him well in what will be a challenging but incredibly important job.

As for the reorganisation, the official figures make it clear that it is saving more than £1 billion every year during the present Parliament—money that is being reinvested in the provision of 1,600 more nurses, 1,700 more midwives, 1,800 more health visitors and nearly 8,000 more doctors than we had under Labour. I am afraid that that shows that Labour has not learned the lessons of Mid Staffs. Labour Members still want to turn the clock back and spend all that money on administration.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that savings that have been made through greater effectiveness and efficiency, and that can be ploughed back into patient care, should be warmly welcomed? Does he not think that such action is far preferable to the bizarre suggestion by a former Labour Health Minister that people should be charged £10 a month to visit their GPs, which would compromise Nye Bevan’s founding principle of a free health service?

I do think that that is a bizarre suggestion. Given our ageing population, we need to make it easier rather than harder for people to see their GPs. I also think it bizarre of the Opposition to set their face against the reforms that my right hon. Friend helped to pilot through the House. Because money has gone to the front line, 800,000 more operations are being performed in the NHS year in, year out than were performed under Labour. We are putting money where it is needed, with doctors and nurses.

Will the Secretary of State give us more details about the amount of money that was spent on consultants during the top-down reorganisation? Would that money not have been better spent on nursing?

I will happily give the hon. Gentleman the figures, but if he is shocked by the amount that was spent on consultancy, he will be even more horrified to learn that it was vastly greater under the last Labour Government. We are paring that down precisely because we want money to be spent on the front line.

Does the Secretary of State share my hope that the Government’s joint commitment to increasing NHS spending and dealing with the legacy of private finance initiative debt will help areas such as Gosport, which is living under the umbrella of a huge PFI hospital that was approved under the last Government and is sucking up most of the NHS budget?

PFI debt is costing the NHS more than £1 billion every year. In some cases that money was well spent, but it was often very poorly spent. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we want the money to be spent on front-line care, which is why we have drawn a line under the appalling deals negotiated by the last Government. We are spending money where it should be spent, in order to help patients.

It is a year to the day since the Government’s reorganisation took effect, and now that the dust has settled, we can see the full scale of its folly. There are 163 more NHS organisations than there were before, four times more managers are being paid the very highest salaries than the Government planned for, and 4,000 staff received redundancy payments only to be rehired by the new organisations that the Government had created. Is not the reason why the NHS is the only public service that cannot honour a 1% pay increase for its hard-working staff the fact that these Ministers lost control of their own reorganisation, and it has now wasted billions of pounds?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman needs to look at the figures. The reorganisation, which he opposed through thick and thin, means that the NHS is spending less on administration and bureaucracy. If he questions that, may I ask how he thinks we found the money to pay for 8,000 more doctors and 15,000 more clinicians, if it was not by getting rid of primary care trusts and strategic health authorities? That is why there are now 2.5 million more diagnostic tests and 4 million more out-patient appointments every year. We are doing more for patients than was ever done when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State.

I know that it is April fool’s day, and the Secretary of State certainly seems to be getting into the spirit of it with that answer, but his fantasy figures will be laughed at by anyone who works in the NHS. It is not just in relation to bureaucracy that the Government have broken promises. They said that the reorganisation would improve patient care, but 70% of NHS staff say that it has got worse. The first full year of the reorganised NHS has been the worst year for a decade in A and E. It is harder to get a GP appointment than it was before, and cancer patients are waiting longer to start treatment. Is it not now clear that the Government’s reorganisation has been a disaster on every level for patients and taxpayers who never voted for it, and who were promised that it would never happen?

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what is not an April fool—the appalling care at Mid Staffs on his watch. If he is talking about how the NHS is doing, perhaps, for once, Labour Members should look at what patients are saying. I know that it is difficult, but if we look at what patients say, we see that since the election, there has been a 5% increase in those who think that their NHS care is safe, and a 10% increase in those who think that they will be treated with dignity and respect in the NHS under the coalition. We are proud of that, because we are putting patients before politics, which the right hon. Gentleman never does.