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NHS Staff

Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2015

1. How many NHS staff have been made redundant and subsequently re-employed by the NHS since May 2010. (907642)

9. How many NHS staff have been made redundant and subsequently re-employed by the NHS since May 2010. (907650)

Over the four and a half years between May 2010 and October 2014, 5,210 people—equivalent to, annually, less than 0.1% of the NHS work force—have been made redundant and then returned to work elsewhere in the NHS.

But at a time when A and E is in crisis and there are not enough nurses, how on earth can the Minister possibly justify firing and rehiring thousands of NHS staff? What greater sign could there be of a Government with their priorities totally wrong?

I am not sure I recognise that picture of the NHS. We know that there are between 6,000 and 8,000 extra nurses, midwives and health visitors working in our NHS than there were under the previous Government. Also, in respect of A and E, the average length of stay in hospital has steadily come down from about eight days in 2000 to about five days now. So our NHS is getting better and improving under the current Government.

Last year the Prime Minister promised to recover redundancy payments from people who have been rehired. Can the Minister tell us how many payments have been recovered and at what cost?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it was the previous Labour Government who in 2006 set these eye-watering redundancy payments for the NHS, and we have committed to making sure we reform and change that. Therefore, as part of our negotiations and pay offer to NHS staff we want to introduce a redundancy cap of £80,000. Since many Opposition Members are supported by trade unions, I hope they will encourage union members to back that pay and redundancy cap.

Can the Minister confirm that according to the latest figures there are more nurses working in the NHS now than there were in 2010, including an additional 391 at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and an additional 59 at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, the two trusts that serve my constituency?

I am delighted to confirm that, and we have made a conscious decision to reduce NHS waste and bureaucracy. NHS administration spending is down from 4.27% under the previous Government to only 2.77% now, which has resulted in £5 billion of efficiency savings and meant we can invest in about 6,000 more nurses, midwives and health visitors.

The extra NHS staff my hon. Friend talks about are welcome, but my constituents want to know that standards of care are the best as well. What progress is he making to ensure that hospital patients get the best possible care?

The most important thing we have done is support our front-line staff with additional investment in the NHS, which Labour called irresponsible, and there is about £13 billion more going into the NHS during this Parliament. We have also increased transparency to make sure that where there are isolated pockets of poor care, the Care Quality Commission can intervene and make recommendations to improve the quality of care for patients in those hospitals.

20. Given the significant challenges facing the NHS and the fact that this top-down reorganisation has led to this hiring and firing and therefore a distraction of energy and attention at crucial times, do not the Government now regret their top-down reorganisation? (907663)

A reorganisation of NHS services that results in administration spending being reduced from 4.27% under the previous Government to 2.77% under this Government, meaning that there is £5 billion more money for front-line patient care, is a good thing. That is something the Opposition should support, because it means that patients are getting a better service.

Can the Minister remind the House of the number of extra specialist A and E doctors working in the NHS in England now compared with 2010?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this important point. As part of our commitment to investing more money in the front line, we have been able to ensure that there are between 800 and 1,000 more doctors now working in A and E than there were under the Labour Government.

Order. May I gently remind the House that the question is not about staff per se in the NHS? The question is about people made redundant and subsequently re-employed. Attention to detail tends to profit a Member.

Those of us on the Public Accounts Committee have heard about the industrial scale of this revolving door of people going out of one job and into another with a fat redundancy payment. Does this not show that the Government have lost their grip on what is truly important in the NHS, which is paying front-line clinicians to serve patients?

That is extraordinary. The Public Accounts Committee will be aware that these redundancy terms were introduced by the previous Labour Government in 2006. We are committed to changing them and I hope that the hon. Lady’s party will support us in exerting pressure on the unions to support the pay deals on the table that will introduce an £80,000 redundancy cap.

21. Yes, Mr Speaker; I am grateful. I want to ask about the number of nurses who have been made redundant. Lots of hospitals in my area are now recruiting from Spain, and I wonder whether an assessment has been made of the cost to the NHS of using nurses from abroad after making other nurses redundant. (907664)

Our NHS has always benefited from overseas staff bringing their skills and coming to work here, and we can all welcome that as long as they have a good standard of spoken English, which is something that we are putting right through the legislation that we are introducing. As I outlined earlier, there are now around 7,500 more nurses, midwives and health visitors working in the NHS than there were under the previous Government.