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Hospitals (Winter Demand)

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 13 January 2015

9. What steps have been taken to support NHS hospitals in meeting increased demand in winter 2014-15. (906961)

The Government have prepared for this winter earlier than ever before, with a record £700 million to help the NHS through winter, including £3.6 million to help my hon. Friend’s local area.

The Norfolk and Norwich university hospital has declared a major incident and is also being examined by Monitor for its waiting times. Its medical director stresses that services are safe, but we all know that there is a need to ensure that people can move on from hospitals into other parts of the health care system. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that he would expect the use of the resources he has provided to be jointly planned out with social care?

Obviously this is very important, and that is what is happening now for the first time. We are seeing the true integration of health and social care through the better care fund and record working, and in my hon. Friend’s area, despite the pressures they have been feeling this winter, they have made some good progress. They have put an urgent care centre next to the A and E. They are seeing within four hours nearly 12,000 more people every year, and they are doing about 12,000 more operations every year as well.

In the Chancellor’s announcement last year of extra funding for the NHS, my clinical commissioning group got a 0.24% increase, whereas Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead got 3.7%. The Secretary of State blamed the NHS for this when he responded to my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop), but is it not because this Government have taken need out of the formula—a similar thing to what they have done in local government—which means the movement of money from the north to the south?

No, we have not. The NHS funds were allocated on the basis of a formula and the extra money was given to the places that were most off-target on the basis of the number of older people, the level of social deprivation and a range of other important factors. All I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that we have increased the NHS budget in real terms in his area, whereas those on his own Front Bench wanted to cut it.

May I take this opportunity to salute the efforts made by Frimley Park hospital, the first hospital in the land to have been awarded outstanding status by the Care Quality Commission? Is it not the case that it has responded well to the pressures and elicited praise from my constituents, which is down in large measure to the leadership of Sir Andrew Morris, who was rightly awarded a knighthood in the new year’s honours?

I think it is, and my hon. Friend is right that it is a brilliant hospital; it serves my constituents as well. One of the things it is doing is helping to turn around Heatherwood and Wexham Park hospitals trust, which was in special measures, including its A and E department, which is doing much better. Sir Andrew Morris has been running that hospital for 26 years, and that kind of stability in leadership makes a huge difference.

On easing winter pressures in NHS hospitals, could the Secretary of State indicate when he last met the chair of emergency medicine and what steps will be taken to ensure greater accessibility to GP practices?

If the hon. Lady is talking about NHS England head of emergency medicine Professor Keith Willett, I meet him pretty much every week.