12. What recent advice he has received on NHS trust deficits in England. (904860)
We have regular conversations with the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor about the provider sector. For 2014-15, the TDA, NHS England and Monitor are establishing a joint package of support and financial improvement measures for some of the weakest local health economies.
Even if the Department were able to achieve every possible efficiency saving, both Monitor and the King’s Fund are forecasting a substantial deficit in next year’s budget. What is the Department’s policy response to that? I understood that the Secretary of State ruled out charging in answer to an earlier question, so that leaves either applying more money to the problem or restricting the service.
The right hon. Gentleman asks a valid question about how to make efficiency savings. Under the previous Government, there was a requirement in 2009 to make £20 billion of NHS efficiency savings during this Parliament, which is being delivered at £4 billion a year. Improving procurement practice at hospitals, improving estate management, greater energy efficiency measures, ensuring more shared business services in the back office and reducing bureaucracy are all measures that will continue to ensure that the NHS meets the challenge and frees up more money for front-line patient care.
Stafford hospital has struggled with deficits for many years, but it has substantially improved its care. On Friday, however, it was announced that 58 beds will be closed due to staff shortages. My constituents and others are extremely concerned that the trust special administrator’s plans, which the Secretary of State endorsed, to keep A and E, acute medicine and many other services at Stafford are at risk. Will the Minister reassure them and staff that that is absolutely not the case and that the TSA’s plans will be enacted as a minimum?
The most important thing in delivering local services is to ensure high-quality patient care and patient safety, so I would want the TSA’s plans to be delivered as quickly as possible to ensure that high-quality services are delivered locally and that patients’ best interests are protected.