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House of Commons Hansard
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15 July 2014
Volume 584
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [904873]

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I am pleased to tell the House that on 19 June the Prime Minister hosted a very successful global dementia summit as a follow-up to the G8 dementia summit. We are currently diagnosing and treating 70,000 more people every year with dementia, but the big challenge is, as he set out at the G8 summit, finding a cure or disease-modifying therapy by 2025. We had useful discussions on what barriers need to be eliminated to ensure that the research happens to find such a cure.

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What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the need for a single hyper-acute stroke unit in south Essex?

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I know that discussions are going on on that very topic and the CCGs are very interested in putting a hyper-acute stroke service at Southend hospital, which I know has excellent stroke services. We still need further improvements in the ambulance services for the east of England if we are going to do that and that is what we are currently discussing.

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I shall begin by congratulating the Health Secretary on surviving the massacre of the moderates. This was no real surprise for those of us on the Opposition Benches, however, because we know that his real views on the NHS are anything but moderate. On his watch, there has been more privatisation and now there is an accelerating postcode lottery. Today, the Royal College of Surgeons has revealed that some people waiting for hip replacements are being denied treatment that is available elsewhere because of arbitrary pain thresholds that are so harsh in places that people must be in severe debilitating pain before they can be treated. This is in direct contravention of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance. Will the Secretary of State today condemn the fact that people are being denied treatment in that way, and act immediately to end the practice?

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Of course it is absolutely right that people should follow NICE guidance, including all clinical commissioning groups, but if the right hon. Gentleman looks at what has happened over the past four years, he will see that we are treating more people, not fewer, with 6,000 more people getting their knees replaced and 9,000 more getting their hips replaced every year. That is possible only because we have 7,000 more doctors in the NHS because we took the difficult decision to get rid of the primary care trusts. Will he now accept that he was wrong to oppose those reforms and wrong to put politics before patients?

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The Secretary of State says that CCGs should be following NICE guidance, but they are not. Seven out of 10 are not following that guidance, and people who are waiting for operations today will be left in pain because he is not acting. The truth is that the reorganisation has resulted in a postcode lottery writ large, and it is worse than we thought, because there is now a proposal in one area to end the provision of hearing aids on the national health service. That is totally unacceptable. Action on Hearing Loss warns that that would set a dangerous national precedent, leaving millions unable to live their lives. So, no ifs, no buts—will he condemn that proposal now and guarantee that patients will not be forced to pay for hearing aids on his watch?

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I make it absolutely clear that everyone should follow NICE guidance. As the right hon. Gentleman has talked about the reorganisation, will he please accept that we are now doing 850,000 more operations on the NHS every single year? That means that more people are getting help with their hearing, their hips and their knees, and with all the other things that they need. He bitterly opposed that reorganisation, but he must now realise that he was wrong to oppose it then and he is wrong to oppose it now.

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T2. I recently had the pleasure of meeting my constituents Susan Childs and Doreen Smulders, who raised the issue of the inequalities that exist for men with prostate cancer. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what steps are being taken to address the shortfalls in care and support that such men are receiving across the country? [904874]

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My hon. Friend is right to suggest that we want to drive consistency across the country, and NHS England is taking great notice of the cancer patient experience survey in a number of areas of cancer care. It has been a real driver of change where it has identified variation. I am sure he will welcome the fact that the overall range of variation for many indicators relating to prostate cancer has narrowed. None the less, we want to see NHS England working with NHS Improving Quality—NHS IQ—and others to ensure that struggling organisations are brought up to the standards of the best. The survey is a good way of driving that.

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T3. Since 2010, the percentage of patients who say that they can see their GP within 48 hours has halved from 80% to 40%. Given the pressure on the NHS, and especially on accident and emergency services, will the Secretary of State explain why the Government’s reforms are threatening to close 98 surgeries around the country, including five in Tower Hamlets? Will he publish the full list today? [904875]

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Let me gently explain to the hon. Lady that she has excellent GP provision in Tower Hamlets, led by Dr Sam Everington. It is a model of what can happen under the Government’s reforms. The way in which we are going to make it easier for people to see their GP is with additional capacity. We have 1,000 more GPs during this Parliament, and we have achieved that only because we took the difficult decision to get rid of 19,000 managers, which was bitterly opposed by the hon. Lady and the Labour party.

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T4. Now that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has concluded its consultation on the use of generic asthma inhalers by schools in cases of emergency when a child does not have his or her own inhaler, will my hon. Friend update the House on the next steps? In particular, does she expect schools to be allowed to keep these inhalers in the new school year? [904876]

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on her great campaigning on this issue, and on the really good results that she has had. As she says, we have recently consulted on changing the regulations under the Medicines Act 1968 to allow schools to hold inhalers in the way that she has described. There was overwhelming support for such a change, and we will lay the necessary statutory instrument this week to enable the change to come into force on 1 October.

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T6. On nurse-patient staffing ratios, it has been reported in the Health Service Journal that out of 139 trusts surveyed, 119 failed to fill their registered day nurse hours, 112 failed to fill their registered night nurse hours and 105 failed to fill their registered nurse hours across day and night. Is it not time for Ministers and NICE to state straightforwardly that a ratio of one nurse to eight patients or better is the only way for patient safety? [904878]

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NICE has taken the sensible decision to issue its guidance. It does so independently, but we are not making it mandatory on the advice of the chief nursing officer and many other chief nurses across the country for the simple reason that if we have a mandatory minimum, that can become the maximum that trusts invest in and many wards need more than 1:8. That is why NICE’s guidance was so important today.

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T5. The Chavasse report on improving care for members of the armed services and veterans builds on the improvements that we have already made and has been welcomed by the Department of Health and indeed the Ministry of Defence. We owe it to our armed services to carry on making improvements to their care, so will the Minister encourage NHS England to look favourably on its recommendations? [904877]

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My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the Chavasse report. Its focus on improving care for veterans is warmly welcomed. There is a lot that we can work with to deliver better care and build on the specialist care centres already in place for veterans who have lost limbs and need prosthetic services and to provide additional support for veterans with mental health problems.

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Mr George Mudie. Not here.

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May I remind the Secretary of State that it takes seven years to train a doctor and most of the doctors he boasts about were trained under a Labour Government? What is he doing about the disparity between GPs surgeries and the service that they offer? Some months ago I made some visits in Coventry and I was amazed by the difference in the levels of service.

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It does take seven years to train a GP, but we also have to have an NHS that is able to pay for GPs when they are trained. That is why it was so important to take the difficult decision to reduce the amount of money that we spend on back-office and management costs. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is too much disparity in the services offered by different GPs. That is something that the chief inspector of general practice is thinking about, and he will publish his plans shortly.

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T8. From my regular discussions with local GPs in Swindon, I know that the reasons behind recruitment issues are often complex and localised. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that those responsible for commissioning GP services will place daily access to general practitioners at the heart of their considerations? [904880]

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I know that they do that, and I know that people recognise that access is a critical issue. That is why the Prime Minister introduced a £50 million fund last year that has been taken up by 1,100 of the 8,000 surgeries across the country to improve access in evenings, at weekends and by e-mail and Skype. I hope that those will benefit his constituents.

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SSP Health runs a number of GP practices in my constituency and across Merseyside. When it took over, it promised full-time GPs and an improvement in services, yet after well over a year several of the practices are still run by locums. We have seen vulnerable, elderly people unable to get appointments for many days, if not weeks, and those who can have gone to other practices. Will the Secretary of State look at what is going on with SSP Health in and around Merseyside and give me and other hon. Members an answer?

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I am happy to do so, because the service that he describes—I have not seen the details—sounds totally unacceptable.

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T9. Given that last year, more than 7,500 people with a mental health crisis found themselves in police cells rather than anywhere appropriate such as a hospital, given that 263 of those people were children and young people, and given that they stayed for 10 and a half hours in a police cell, is it not time that we took the evidence of street triage, which we know works, and rolled it out across the country? [904881]

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The fascinating thing is that street triage is spreading across the country because forces and mental health trusts see the enormous value of it. The really exciting news is the significant reduction in the number of people who end up in police cells. That is in part due to the standards that we set through the crisis care concordat for the first time for mental health crisis care.

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I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to getting rid of as much bureaucracy as possible, so will he look into what is happening with NHS England in south Yorkshire that is delaying approval for a much-needed GP surgery in my constituency? Given that it is in partnership with the local authority, the delay risks us losing the surgery altogether.

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I am happy to look into the details of that case and be as much of a bureaucracy buster as I can.

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T10. Is my hon. Friend aware that nurses are paying an extra £200 a month and patients an extra £40 a week for ever-increasing hospital car parking charges? Will he look into the problem, meet me and do everything he can to end the great hospital car parking rip-off? [904882]

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I share my hon. Friend’s concerns that the car park charges in some hospitals are just too high. I understand that hospitals have financial pressures, as do many parts of the system, but I am happy to talk to him on another occasion about what specifically can be done on this issue.

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Annually 30,000 applications for funeral payments are rejected, leaving families committed to expensive funerals that they cannot afford. People who are approaching end of life are not advised, as part of their palliative care, about planning for funeral costs or their eligibility for support. What is the Secretary of State going to do to remedy this?

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The hon. Lady raises an important issue and I am very happy to discuss her concerns further with her.

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The Secretary of State will be aware of the campaign run by the Milton Keynes Citizen, my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) and myself for an expanded A and E department at Milton Keynes hospital. What assurances can he give me that A and E services at the hospital will be able to meet the needs of an expanding population?

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No one could have campaigned harder than my hon. Friend and his hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes North (Mark Lancaster) for improving the services at their local A and E department. A consultation is currently taking place. There is no question of closing both A and Es in that area, and I understand that a very good capital bid for £2 million for his local A and E has been put in which, subject to the usual value-for-money requirements, looks like it is very strong.

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My constituent, 81-year-old Rita, was taken seriously ill on holiday and had to spend two weeks in hospital. She was discharged with a letter saying that she needed very urgent surgery, but has had to wait five weeks before she even sees a consultant, let alone getting any treatment. What can the Secretary of State do for Rita and others like her?

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We are working extremely hard to make sure that people do not have those long waits. We are doing about 3.5 million more diagnostic tests, for example, every year in the NHS than four years ago. I am happy to look into the individual case and see what lessons can be learned and to see whether we can help the hon. Lady’s constituent.

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Is it ever acceptable, as reported to me in my constituency surgery last week, for a GP to tell their patient, “There is nothing I can do, so I don’t want to hear any more about your mental health”?

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No, that is entirely unacceptable. What we see in some of the best parts of the country such as Torbay, one of the integrated care pioneers, is that they are completely integrating mental health with primary care, delivering better results for patients. The sort of attitude that my hon. Friend describes has to end.

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There is lots of evidence to show that chronic traumatic encephalopathy is now a major cause of depression, dementia and in many cases suicide, but the World cup showed that many sporting bodies are still not taking concussion seriously enough. Will the Minister, perhaps with colleagues in other Departments, bring in all the sporting bodies, the doctors and the teachers so that we can take concussion in sport seriously?

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The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. As we commission NHS services, it is increasingly important that there is more focus on sports injury and rehabilitation, not just in relation to our elite sports people, but in relation to those people who play sport regularly at weekends, to ensure that they are properly looked after. If it would be helpful, I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter further and see how we can take it forward.

BILLS PRESENTED

Protective Headgear for Cyclists Aged Fourteen Years and Under (Research) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Annette Brooke presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to commission research into the merits of requiring cyclists aged fourteen years and under to wear protective headgear; to report to Parliament within six months of the research being completed; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 74).

Amenity Land (Adoption by Local Authorities) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Annette Brooke presented a Bill to amend section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to allow local authorities to adopt areas of amenity land which are unregistered or vested in the Crown, for the purposes of maintenance; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 75).

Sugar in Food and Drinks Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Geraint Davies, supported by Jeremy Lefroy, Mr Mark Williams, Mrs Madeleine Moon, Mrs Linda Riordan and Dr Julian Lewis, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to set targets for sugar content in food and drinks; to provide that sugar content on food and drink labelling be represented in terms of the number of teaspoonfuls of sugar; to provide for standards of information provision in advertising of food and drinks; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed (Bill 76).