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Operational Productivity in NHS Providers

Volume 597: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2015

[Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

I beg to move,

That this House has considered operational productivity in NHS providers.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard, and I welcome the Minister to his role. I believe this may be his first Westminster Hall debate, and I am greatly pleased that I am the Member who secured the debate.

The national health service featured heavily in the recent general election campaign. I recall speaking at several hustings and telling my constituents that I recognised that this Parliament would witness an increasing demand for NHS services. On occasion I was challenged on how the additional £8 billion highlighted by the Stevens review would be found. My response, then and now, is that the greatest efficiencies can be identified within current services without undermining patient care. Such a view is shared by Simon Stevens, but most interestingly it is a view shared by others, including my constituents Philip Braham and David Green, who established a medical recruitment company called Remedium Partners. I am pleased that both gentlemen are here today in the Public Gallery.

Having met Mr Braham and Mr Green before the election, I was eager to re-establish contact with them earlier this month to discuss their ideas about NHS efficiency in employment. It is possible that more cynical Members will say that this is more evidence of the Conservative party seeking to introduce greater private sector involvement in the NHS for others to make a profit, but that would be an incorrect assertion to make. In fact, I found our discussion focusing on opportunities to save the NHS more money and prevent its resources being plundered by unscrupulous individuals.

The publication of Lord Carter of Coles’s interim report, “Review of Operational Productivity in NHS providers”—hence the title of this debate—two days before our meeting could not have been more fortuitous. The report outlined four areas where Lord Carter believes greater efficiencies could be achieved to allow additional moneys to be spent on front-line care. One objective in seeking today’s debate was to air the issues and to place them on the public record. Lord Carter’s efficiencies within the NHS include saving £1 billion from improved hospital pharmacy and medicines optimisation, £1 billion from the NHS estate, £1 billion from improvements to procurement management, and £2 billion from improvements in workflow and encompassing workforce costs.

Workforce costs is the area that I intend to focus on in this debate, as I have discussed it directly with my constituents and because just a 1% increase in workforce productivity could achieve as much as £400 million of savings. This is a significant and important area of the work of the NHS. Lord Carter believes that the £2 billion figure would be achieved without making anyone redundant and without seeking to increase the responsibilities of staff, nor would it mean decreased levels of remuneration for future employees. What it does mean is a greater command of management control on non-productive time, which are the periods when staff emphasis is not on direct patient care—days and shifts of annual leave, sickness and training. It also includes better management of rosters, improved guidance on appropriate staffing levels and skill ranges for certain types of wards.

The NHS is one of the largest employers in this country, employing more than 1.3 million staff in more than 300 different types of roles. In the last year that figures were available, the cost to the NHS budget was £45.3 billion, the largest proportion of the £118 billion budget. The cost of nurses alone totals £19 billion, and with the increased number required for safer staffing and a third increase in the number of nurses leaving the profession in the past two years, the reliance on agency nurses will see this figure rising.

When the hon. Gentleman talks about increasing the productivity of staff, can he itemise which staff he is referring to and say how much would actually be saved?

We are talking about all the different staff. There are 300 different employment roles in the NHS, so we are talking about everyone across the NHS, but I hope later in my speech to come to the specifics of clinicians and the use of agency staff for that sort of role.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. In my constituency in north Cumbria there is a hospital with a large number of agency staff, which has been a problem for some considerable time. I understand the need to employ agency staff, but does he agree that it would be far better to have staff employed directly by the hospital, as that would improve patient care and staff morale and also—to echo his point—improve the costs and productivity of that hospital?

I certainly do agree with that point, and I hope to elaborate further on that. I also wish to touch on the use of bank nurses, or bank employees, who periodically work for parts of the NHS. I agree that for patient care it would be best to have full-time permanent staff who not only know the patients and the hospitals, but know the other employees they work with on a day-to-day basis.

Most worryingly, Lord Carter identified the fact that, in some of the 22 hospitals he surveyed, bank nurses are remunerated at a level that does not discourage them from remaining with, or moving to, agencies. I looked at the website of one of the trusts that took part in the review by Lord Carter and was surprised to see the range and number of bank employees—including, ironically, the position of the e-roster co-ordinator. I will not name that particular trust, as this debate is not a “name and shame” exercise, but I raise it to illustrate the point, because if such a role is vacant, what hope can there be to ensure that other clinical positions are staffed suitably?

The e-roster co-ordinator is in the best position to monitor employment and identify irregularities in work patterns to prevent fraudulent practices. The majority of people who work for the NHS are honest, but there are a minority who seek to defraud its resources. I want to highlight the types of fraud that occur. Such fraud involves staff and professionals who claim money for services not provided or more money than they are entitled to, or who divert funds to themselves. It can also involve external organisations that provide false or misleading information, including invoices, to claim money they are not entitled to. Some of these frauds can be fairly low value, but they can often cost the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds.

One example is Michael Botham, a hospital worker in Stoke-on-Trent who claimed nearly £20,000 for shifts he did not work. He applied for work via a recruitment agency, AMG Nursing and Care Services, in October 2007. He was then assigned as an unqualified healthcare worker to Bucknall hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, where he worked in the complex needs ward. Most worryingly, it took a ward manager to identify an overspend and to report their suspicions about Botham to the trust’s local counter-fraud specialist team. When the team analysed his timesheets, they revealed that he had submitted false claims for work from 1 January to 26 July 2009, complete with forged authorisation. In fact, he had worked only one shift during that period.

Botham also claimed payment for four shifts at Bradwell hospital, part of the same trust, in January 2009. Again, he had not worked those shifts and the authorising signatures were also false. In total, the trust overpaid £19,362 as a result of his false claims to the agency, which invoiced the trust in good faith on a weekly basis, but subsequently, to its credit, offered to pay back its fees of £3,956.50. This is a clear case of an individual deciding to defraud the NHS, but what is concerning is that the problem emerged only as a result of the scrutiny of another member of staff whose role was not to look for fraud.

I worked for a clinical commissioning group in Bristol. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that one reason why that would have happened is that all members of NHS staff have to undergo mandatory and statutory training to recognise and counter fraud?

I do, but I am saying that this should have been picked up by an individual with a strategic, holistic approach to staffing and staffing budgets, rather than leaving it to one individual on the ward who realised there was a problem with the budgets. There are processes in place to ensure that fraud does not happen, and I would like all hospital trusts to introduce such processes. In his report, Lord Carter highlights a case where one provider identified 20 cases of counter-fraud when they reviewed and strengthened their sickness and annual reporting leave. That prompts the question of why such abuses continue to be left unchecked.

There is another case of fraud that I want to highlight, which has been judged more harshly, although it can be argued that it is certainly not as deceptive because the individual actually undertook the work. Simon Olufemi Ajani was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment following a fraud investigation by NHS Protect after he had produced a false passport and certificate of entitlement to the right of abode in the UK. That enabled him to obtain work with patients at East London NHS Foundation Trust, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and other London trusts through NHS Professionals, the agency that supplies temporary staff to the NHS. His fraud was first uncovered through a data-matching exercise that highlighted inconsistencies between UK Border Agency records and NHS payroll records.

The difference between those two cases is that Ajani worked the hours that he was paid for, even though he was not entitled to be employed in this country, while Botham was just a crook stealing money directly from the NHS and patient care. These examples lead me to ask the Minister about the employment of those from outside the EU, an issue I have discussed recently with my constituents, as I mentioned. There is some criticism about the use of foreign doctors in the NHS, and some people consider that these jobs have been taken out of the reach of British people. However, we all know that the NHS does not have the numbers of doctors and nurses that it needs and there is not the capacity within the population of the United Kingdom to provide them. That is why some agency staff are required.

For some medical practitioners, however, remaining a locum is an alternative to having a permanent position. Some doctors are able to earn between £1,400 and £1,500 for a 12-hour shift, while the on-costs payable to agencies mean that hundreds of thousands of pounds a year are being charged to health trusts around the country for employment of temporary staff. One alternative to the costly system of locums could be the employment of a permanent doctor from overseas who could earn a salary of between £75,000 and £120,000. I need not ask the Minister whether he feels that this is better value for money than having a locum.

The NHS is an employer of those considered to have skills that are needed in this country, and a tier 2 visa allows “skilled workers” from outside the European economic area with a job offer to enter the UK. However, it has been established that the immigration health surcharge is levied against non-EU citizens. This requires every applicant and their dependents to pay not only their visa fees but a further £200 each year for up to three years. It strikes me as perverse that the very people needed to work in the NHS are being penalised by paying an additional amount that should perhaps be part of their terms and conditions of employment. Can the Minister explain in his summing up how the figure of £200 was reached and whether he feels that levying this tithe against NHS employees is counterproductive?

Lord Carter’s report goes on to identify opportunities in managing annual leave—what he terms the largest part of non-productive time. There are many ways in which NHS employers can ensure they manage staff leave. I am not going to stand here and say that the Minister should micro-manage the NHS in England, but even simple practices do not appear to be implemented in some NHS trusts. We all agree that, while the needs of patients must be considered when managing annual leave, people do need time off. Introducing a notice period of a month for leave requests of, say, more than three or four days would allow NHS managers the time to plan ahead, but that is not happening uniformly, thereby ensuring that agency staff are needed as an emergency measure.

Can the Minister therefore confirm that measures introduced by the Secretary of State to reduce agency locum spend will include a requirement for trusts to ensure that their employment practices and policies include such conditions as notice periods to book leave, that trusts consider employing e-roster co-ordinators and that trusts examine their employment policies so that they can compare themselves with their peers and undertake a skill mix review, the combination of which would reduce the need for spending on agency staff?

A fear raised with me by my constituents concerns the revalidation of full-time locum doctors. It is well known that locum doctors can experience a variety of challenges with revalidation, largely due to the peripatetic nature of their work, but annual appraisals are the backbone of revalidation and fundamental to demonstrating the fitness of medical professionals to practise. Revalidation should be carried out by the framework suppliers—the agencies that supply staff—but I have heard anecdotal reports that agencies do not revalidate, and it has been alleged that some health professionals are even practising outside their qualifications and skill range. Can the Minister tell us how the Department will ensure that the revalidation of all full-time locum medical professionals is carried out by the framework suppliers?

The final issue about the use of agency staff I want to raise is the use of master vendor contracts between health trusts and employment agencies. The use of this practice creates an opportunity for collusion within the employment industry to seek maximum financial gain through the use of exclusive contracts. While such contracts may be an easy option for the employer—in this case, the health trust—the agency can ask premium prices for a service that could be provided more cheaply if it were opened up to competition. Such a practice effectively introduces a closed shop and prevents smaller employment agencies from being able to enter the health market. Can the Minister advise us how the Department can ensure that the use of master vendors does not result in tacit collusion in the employment industry for exclusive contracts that cost the NHS more than it might pay for the services elsewhere?

In conclusion, this debate is not a negative criticism of employment agencies or the work of people in the NHS; in fact, it is the opposite. I congratulate the people who work in the NHS and I want to ensure that more people are employed in the NHS. I am framing this debate as an opportunity to assist the Government in ensuring that the resources needed by the NHS and identified by the Stevens review are made available. It is an opportunity to start the process by recognising where we can work smarter to ensure a better NHS for all and identify opportunities to achieve economies that do not undermine patient care, but in fact achieve the opposite, by ensuring the correct number of appropriately qualified staff in the NHS, working confidently, diligently and at a pace that ensures the best care for patients.

Thank you, Mr Pritchard, for calling me to speak.

I agree with the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) that of course there are always efficiencies to be made, and ways of considering how they can be made; NHS managers and staff, including clinical staff, spend a great deal of their time doing that. My intervention about counter-fraud was meant to suggest that that work becomes part of the way that people start thinking about their work as public servants. However, this debate needs to be widened out beyond the individual savings that have been mentioned. As the King’s Fund has said, the greatest savings achieved in the NHS since 1948 were made since 2010, largely through reductions to pay and central budgets, and some restructuring. Having said that, I am slightly sceptical about the savings that can be made through restructuring.

We need to move this debate on to a discussion about quality in its widest sense, because quality is an organising principle of the NHS; ultimately, quality will deliver greater savings and contribute towards the £22 billion target. It will also involve people much more in the management of their healthcare, so that we save money that is currently spent on public health interventions. We must also ensure that when people use the health service, they understand where savings can be made. If we were able to involve patients and others much more in that debate, we would find more good examples of what we have been discussing. There are some great examples from Bristol, particularly around environmental savings. There have been some fantastic projects to reduce consumption of energy, both at Universities Hospital Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, and at North Bristol NHS Trust. There is also the reskilling that takes place within the community services organisations, to make better use of the highly skilled community nurses and to help people with the flow in and out of hospital.

However, all these measures require the system to be stable and require some transitional support to allow the transformation to happen. At the moment, I am not sure that the NHS feels it has the support to make that happen, as individual examples that will not yield overall results are being picked out. I welcome this debate about productivity, but I hope that we can have a degree of political honesty about the scale of the challenge of the £22 billion cuts.

The hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) talked about efficiency, which is one thing; productivity is something totally different. Productivity is what the individual produces, whereas efficiency is really about how the individual works. Does my hon. Frind agree?

I agree with my hon. Friend. It is the environment in which an individual works and is supported into work that helps to boost productivity. I think we would all agree that generally people want to be as productive in the service as they can be, and they are very cognisant of their role as public servants. As I say, I would like to see political honesty and discussion about the scale of the £22 billion cuts. It is hard to see where they will come from, regardless of pay restraint, cuts to services and major reconfigurations. Those changes may need to happen, but there needs to be honesty across all parties in the House to support their introduction.

There is wide-scale agreement about the problems that the NHS faces, beyond the items that the hon. Member for Hendon mentioned, but now that the election has passed it is time for us to consider the solutions that can be achieved to support staff in making that transformation, and in making the NHS highly productive, as well as one of the most efficient services in the world.

I am glad to speak in this important debate under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) on securing it.

Obviously, in Scotland the situation is slightly different, because the NHS is devolved, but many issues cross over, wherever our health services are located. I was very interested in some of the points made. NHS Scotland has produced a framework for efficiency and productivity going up to 2015. We recognise that it is essential to be more efficient and productive, to ensure careful use of the public purse.

To an extent, the situation in Scotland is slightly different, because the NHS budget has been protected from cuts as a result of the Scottish Government’s action. However, we still face inflationary pressures arising from demographic changes and increasing drugs and staff costs, which mean that NHS boards will need to make a minimum of 3% efficiency savings just to break even.

I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about the many issues faced by the NHS, particularly in England. I understand that much of the savings to date have been made by freezing staff salaries, squeezing prices paid to hospitals for the treatment they provide and cutting management costs. I wonder whether there is a correlation between those savings and the frauds and difficulties in some hospitals, which he mentioned. We all want to cut management costs, but sometimes there is a cost to doing that, because if management is cut back it cannot have the same hands-on experience of what is going on in all areas of the operation. That has to be weighed in the balance when we consider such savings.

The hon. Gentleman talked about the Carter review and the time spent by people on the frontline, whether with patients or doing other things. Again, that has to be built in. The hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) made a good point about the difference between productivity and efficiency. A staff member could be deemed much more efficient if they just dealt with patients, but down time for staff has to be worked into the system, because any doctor, nurse, or other NHS staff member will be working at a high level for very long periods. There are dangers if down time is not built in.

All of us would want savings made where they can be safely made, but the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) made an interesting point about the King’s Fund, which estimates that another £30 billion of savings will be required by 2020-21. The Government have made much of the fact that they will put another £8 billion into the NHS. Although I am sure that is welcome, it still leaves £22 billion in savings to be achieved through productivity improvements. With the best will in the world, I find it difficult to envisage £22 billion of savings being made through productivity improvements in the NHS. If it can be achieved, that is fair and well, but it does seem a very tall order, as the King’s Fund stated.

An organisation cannot keep freezing staff wages forever; there will have to be a change in that regard. Management costs cannot be cut indefinitely, because, again, management is needed to run the system.

Admittedly, it has been some years since I was involved in negotiations relating to productivity, and so forth, but the fact remains that there are consequences if people are not paid a decent wage. I worked in industries where wages were frozen and saw the consequences. The only way to increase productivity in the NHS and maybe save money—I use the word “maybe” advisedly—is by having incentives. That is the only way it can be done. It was not clear, in the speech made by the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord), what percentage of people would have time off. There is a tolerable, acceptable percentage in that regard, but I was not clear what the percentages were.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. He is right about incentives. A happy workforce will be a much more productive workforce. There is a danger of putting increasing pressure on the workforce, especially in the NHS, where mistakes can be disastrous and can do a lot of damage in the long term, both to the system and patients. We have to be careful about some of these things. I was interested in what the hon. Member for Hendon said about the cost of agency workers. I think we would all agree on that point. It would be preferable to have full-time staff in the NHS, but agency workers are used for a reason: shortages.

The hon. Gentleman also talked about people from outside the EU working in the NHS, but again, this shows that there needs to be a more holistic Government policy. The Government recently announced an earnings threshold of £36,000, under immigration policy, for those who have been working in this country for six years. Many nurses working in the NHS throughout the United Kingdom are not earning that sort of money and have been in the NHS for many years. The Royal College of Nursing stated that if this policy was imposed, thousands of nurses could leave the NHS and could have to leave the UK. That is not in the best interests of the health service at the moment. When considering efficiency savings and how the NHS can better work for all our constituents throughout the UK, we have to think about such things .

The hon. Gentleman is making an important point. Would it not be counterproductive if NHS nurses left to work abroad? That would leave a massive gap in the NHS workforce, probably requiring an increase in agency workers, which would cost the NHS more.

The hon. Gentleman read my mind: that was my next point. Agency nurses are causing a drain on resources, because we have to employ so many already. That will not get any better if nurses cannot work in the NHS because of immigration policy. These people did not come to this country a few months ago; some have been here for many years. Many of these nurses are working in hospitals in all parts of the UK, whether Scotland, Northern Ireland or England. They are also working in the care system.

The Government are making a bad situation worse, perhaps because of other pressures on them to do with immigration, and are not dealing with the realities of the health service. Training new nurses to take the place of those who may leave will not happen overnight. It takes years to train a nurse properly. If these people have to leave suddenly, they will leave a huge hole in the NHS. That raises a question about the sustainability of the system. In summing up, the Minister might like to consider that; and perhaps he will take the matter up with Home Office colleagues and discuss the impact this policy may have on the NHS.

Efficiency savings are fine where they can be made. We are all looking for efficiency savings, and we understand that there can be some. For example, there are some interesting responses in the Carter review on medicines and prescriptions. Savings could be made there. A lot of medicines can be wasted if prescriptions are too large. Such system changes can save money, but it is wrong to look for the silver bullet that is going to change things and produce the £22 billion in efficiency and improvement savings.

If the hon. Gentleman thinks back 12 months or so, he may remember that it took a long time for the Secretary of State to reach an agreement with the pharmaceutical companies because some issues were held up. We should consider that. It seems to me that a gun was held to the Secretary of State’s head on costs.

Again, the hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. One difficulty with the NHS is the cost of medicines. All our constituents are pushing us to get costly new medicines on the NHS for diseases, including rare diseases. They might be extremely costly in the first instance for good reasons, but demand always increases costs in the system, and it is difficult to deal with that. The pharmaceutical companies have a role to play in that, because much of their business comes through the national health service. If cost savings can be made by negotiating with those companies, that should be done. I am sure that the Secretary of State will at all times try to persuade them on that point, but I am not so sure how well he will do, given the competing pressures from constituents and Members for new drugs to be made available on the NHS. None of these issues are easy, and I have some sympathy for Ministers who are struggling with them, especially given the pressures on all areas of Government spending, but I urge caution in looking for simple solutions.

While it will be unorthodox, it is not irregular for me to call Jim Shannon, who briefly left the Chamber during a very good speech from Karin Smyth that was slightly shorter than I expected.

Thank you, Mr Pritchard. I apologise for having had to step out of the Chamber for a minute or two. I expected the speech of the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) to be a wee bit longer. It is always a pleasure to speak on these issues, and I thank the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) for bringing this subject to the House for our consideration.

The Carter report is important. Members will know that health is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland, and the responsibility for health falls clearly on the Northern Ireland Assembly and my party colleague Simon Hamilton, but it is important that we consider the issues and the recommendations in the report. I will speak to that in a few minutes, but first I pay tribute to all those who, despite the numerous difficulties facing us, make our NHS one of the premier care services in the world.

The tireless work of the doctors, nurses, surgeons, technicians, pharmacists, auxiliaries, cleaners, cooks, porters and those who work in admin behind the scenes has not gone unnoticed. I am sure everyone here would start by thanking them for their contributions, their efforts and the exhausting work they do. I thank them for their smiles to the patients and families, sometimes when the workers are so exhausted they can barely stand. I thank them for staying those extra 10 and 15 minutes beyond what they are paid for to make a patient comfortable. I thank them for choosing to come to work and sometimes having to face abuse from tired and perhaps frightened people. I thank them for retaining their dignity and helpful nature. In this debate, we do not stand in judgment on the NHS or the workers; rather, we look at the procedures in place and how we as Members of Parliament can help to make the NHS, which we are fortunate to have across all the regions, more effective for everyone.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned long hours. Some of the young trainee doctors are doing a 12-hour day, seven days a week. That can go on for months. That is not exactly conducive to good morale in the national health service, is it?

None of us here said that it was. It is important that our doctors and the staff are not over-tired.

The Carter report sets out how efficiencies can be delivered. The hon. Member for Angus (Mike Weir) who spoke before me clearly outlined the issues. The title of the debate refers to Lord Carter’s review of productivity in hospitals, and the interim report of that review, “Review of operational productivity in NHS providers”, which was published on 11 June. We all know that Lord Carter of Coles was appointed by the Health Secretary to chair the NHS procurement and efficiency board in June 2014, to review the operational productivity of NHS hospitals and to establish the opportunities for efficiency savings across the NHS. To do that, Lord Carter and the review board worked with a group of 22 NHS providers across England, and I think that what they have found in England will be replicated for us in Northern Ireland and for our colleagues in Scotland and Wales. There are lessons to learn, so we should take note of what the report says.

As I said, an interim report was published on 11 June outlining the work that has been carried out and the interim recommendations and next steps. The full report is to come in the autumn, and I look forward to seeing what it says. Back home, people are sick to death of the term “efficiency savings”, the idiotic behaviour of Sinn Féin and the Social Democratic and Labour party and others and the funding penalties we are facing. Our NHS is being asked to do the impossible and be more efficient than it is, but when I look at the findings of the interim report, I see things that may extend to our running of the NHS in Northern Ireland. That is what the Carter report is about, and I am sure the Minister will give his thoughts on that shortly. The report sets out ways we could ease the pressure off front-line services and enable the functioning of our country while we wait for action to cease the penalties and see Northern Ireland receiving what she is entitled to—what we would be getting, were it not for the inability of Sinn Féin to do what its Members were elected to do and work for the people. That, however, is a different debate for another day, and I accept that.

The interim report suggests that the NHS in England could look to make savings of some £5 billion per annum by 2019-20 and reports three major areas of opportunity. The first is hospitals getting a stronger grip on the utilisation of resources, particularly in four areas: workforce, hospital pharmacy and medicines, estates management and procurement. The second is achieving greater productivity in hospital workflow—how patients move through the system—and the subsequent use of assets such as operating theatres. I have always felt we could look at that, and the Carter report has examined it and offered some ideas on how it could work. The final area is gaining a better understanding of the need for hospitals to develop sub-acute services, either on their own or in collaboration with others, to facilitate the discharge of patients. It is about making it work better together.

We need a way of ensuring the highest quality of patient care, delivered at the lowest price possible to ensure that more funding can be diverted to cancer drugs. Members will know that I have advocated ensuring the availability of cancer drugs across the whole United Kingdom, rather than that being down to postcode. In Northern Ireland, we would like to use prescription charges to put some money towards cancer drugs. I know that the Government have given a commitment and that there is some help for the devolved Administrations when it comes to cancer drugs, but not to the extent that we would like. We also need more funding diverted to research and other areas.

I was surprised to see in the report that one hospital could save up to £750,000 a year by improving the way it deals with staff rosters, annual leave, sickness and flexible working. That was just one example, which would regain the £10,000 a month the hospital was losing due to people claiming too much annual leave. That is an easy way of getting money back into hospitals. Ensuring every hospital pays the best price for medicines and supplies would save money that could be invested in front-line care. One hospital with 23 operating theatres improved the way it tracks the products used during surgery and saved £230,000 in the first year alone. I am not saying that every hospital could do that, but it is an example of what can be done, and it would be unwise to ignore it.

When the Hansard report of this debate becomes available, I will send a copy to my colleague, the Health Minister in Northern Ireland, Simon Hamilton, to make him aware of the Carter report and this debate. Helpful lessons may emerge that we could use. For example, a hospital was using the soluble version of a steroid for multiple illnesses and paying £1.50 a tablet when the solid version costs just 2p a tablet. Using the soluble version only for children and patients who have trouble swallowing saved £40,000 every year. Those may be small examples, but they collectively show how something could happen. I have some concerns. Cheap is not always best, and we have many examples of the copying of tablets in China and elsewhere. Those tablets are not as effective and may be harmful, so we have to monitor how we best ensure that cheaper drugs are effective and tackle the diseases they are designed to tackle.

We must take these issues in hand if we are to see the best possible use of funding. With the publication of the full report in the autumn, we will have a better idea of where we are. I hope that that report will be seen not as a stick to beat the NHS with—if it is, that will be for the wrong reasons—but as a ray of light that will help make things better. I very much look forward to seeing what it says about how we can improve things here in England, because we will then, I hope, be able to use that example to improve things across the water in Northern Ireland and perhaps in Scotland, for my colleague and friend, the hon. Member for Angus.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) on securing this important debate. We have had a good debate, although fairly brief, and some important issues have been raised.

I formally welcome the Minister. We have had Health Questions and an Opposition day debate on health since he assumed his role, but this is my first opportunity to welcome him. I trust that his time at the Department of Health will be enjoyable and successful.

I am pleased to respond to the debate on behalf of the Opposition. The hon. Member for Hendon is right: the efficiency challenge for the coming years will dominate the debate about healthcare and shape our NHS in England for decades. As Members know—indeed, several referred to it specifically—the Government are committed to seeing £22 billion of efficiency savings in the NHS by 2020 to meet the £30 billion funding challenge. We have not yet heard any details of where the £8 billion in funding will come from; perhaps I can tease some of the detail out of the Minister. I do not wish to prejudge what may or may not be in the Budget, but it would be nice to have some indication, aside from the usual spin about a growing economy, of where he thinks the £8 billion will come from. Setting aside that question, we need to think carefully about how to meet the £22 billion gap that will remain once that £8 billion is found. To achieve savings on that scale would be a huge ask at any time, but when NHS trusts have huge deficits to tackle and providers say they are experiencing the biggest financial pressures they have ever seen, making these efficiencies will be a huge challenge.

It is probably appropriate at this stage for me to place on record my appreciation of and thanks to those who work in our national health service—at every level. It is not always popular to praise managers, but to meet the challenge the NHS will need a great deal of expert management. We therefore need to praise the work of not just the doctors, nurses, clinicians, porters and support staff, but the good managers, because they will face the real challenge of finding these efficiencies.

It is vital, not just for us but for all those who work in the NHS, that the Minister is as open and honest as he can be today about where the efficiencies will come from. One of the few people who has seen the detail of the planned efficiency savings is the former Care Minister, the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). Just last week, he said that the £22 billion efficiency savings in the five-year forward view are “virtually impossible” to achieve—words that will not fill people with confidence.

As the Minister knows, the Opposition have pressed the Government on a number of occasions to publish the assumptions underlying the £22 billion figure. I hope he will take that message back to the Secretary of State today, because we need to have a properly informed debate about the NHS’s long-term funding requirements. That is true not just of England, because the proposals will have knock-on consequences for the NHS in all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have been represented in the debate.

We need to be honest about the fact that, whatever the scale of the efficiencies that need to be found, there will be no quick fix—a point eloquently made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth). However, when budgets are tight, it is right that we debate how money can be better spent to meet the growing cost of delivering world-class healthcare.

With that in mind, let me cover a couple of pertinent areas. The first is procurement. Any doctor will tell us of sales representatives pushing every bit of kit and course of medicine under the sun—that is just the nature of salespeople, and that is what they do. In the NHS, there are around 500,000 product lines for everyday consumables, with cost variances of sometimes more than 35%, which is massive. The Carter review suggested that a catalogue of 6,000 to 9,000 product lines represents best practice. In part, the huge variety of products is a symptom of a more fragmented NHS. These days, we do not have the opportunity to use the NHS’s national purchasing muscle as much as we did, which is a shame and a wasted opportunity. However, having a reduced range of products—perhaps set out in a national catalogue, but definitely coming through the NHS supply chain—would be good for cost-effectiveness. I hope the Minister can take that point on board.

Part of the problem is the army of sales representatives, who are proliferating at all levels of the NHS. Their very existence represents a large dead-weight cost to providers. They can provide a useful service when it comes to selecting the best product for practitioners’ needs, but it is obviously not in their interests to provide products at the lowest practical cost; nor is it in their interests to promote other products or to give practitioners more information about the choices that may be available to them and their patients. It is, to some extent, an imperfect market, with smaller suppliers pushed out from the very beginning. There will always be a need for companies to provide high-end support and advice, but while representatives have a big influence on buying decisions, we must ensure that that influence is at least partly tracked.

Let me talk briefly about the cost of competition. The Minister is new to his post, but he will have paid close attention to the many debates we had on these issues before the election, so he will be aware of the Opposition’s concerns about the competition rules introduced in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. We know that the new competition framework is causing

“significant cost to the system”—

not my words, but those of the former chief executive of the NHS. Last year, we identified at least £100 million that in trusts and clinical commissioning groups alone was being spent on staff and lawyers to analyse tenders and to administer the tendering process. If the Minister is serious about making substantial savings, may I gently advise him that it would be a good start to look at the waste generated by the Act’s competition provisions?

One crucial area to analyse is the poor workflow in hospitals, and specifically the lack of adequate sub-acute services. At the moment, many discharged patients, particularly elderly ones, have nowhere to go. That is attributable mainly to the drastic cuts to adult social care we have seen in recent years. Sadly, I can only anticipate that those pressures will remain, and perhaps become more acute with coming spending reviews. We all know that if patients are not discharged, hospital beds are wasted and hospital workflow is disrupted, which costs the system an absolute fortune. That is to leave aside the fact that hospital is not the best or most appropriate place for such patients to be or for their care to be delivered.

The consequences of the 2012 Act included fragmentation of responsibility for the flow of patients through the system. Different commissioning organisations now commission primary care to support the patient outside hospital, there is separate provision of community services, and NHS England has an oversight role as well as a role in commissioning specialised services. In Bristol there are two major acute trusts that are largely commissioned by three different clinical commissioning groups, supported by NHS England and involving the Trust Development Authority and Monitor. A large room is needed for people to get around the table at meetings to consider things such as flow, and it is very complicated.

My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head, describing the complexities of the NHS in England. We have talked for several years in the House of Commons about the need for a properly integrated health and social care system. My hon. Friend has set out a prime example of the reason we need that.

I anticipate that the Minister will argue that some of the inefficiencies we have discussed will be addressed through integration. My problem is that many of the competition rules and requirements in the 2012 Act work against such an integrated health and social care system, even though both sides of the House want it. The Government will have to look carefully at the role of some of the rules and regulations they introduced, when local health economies reach the point of developing integrated care models. It is clear that representatives of a hospital trust, local authority adult social care and children’s care services, and the clinical commissioning group cannot sit around a table to plan an integrated health and social care system while many of the requirements placed on the NHS by the 2012 Act continue to apply.

To return to the issue of transfer and delays in hospitals, we all know that the NHS operates something of a just-in-time system. Such systems are used in industry, particularly for international stock control, and they make sure that nothing is wasted. There is little room for slack: if a patient is admitted for longer than necessary because of avoidable shortfalls elsewhere in the system, that can lead to the atrocious scenes that happen when desperately sick and injured people are left lying in corridors. I think that on one occasion, somewhere near the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South, someone was treated in a tent in a hospital car park. We hoped such images had long gone from the NHS.

I want to say politely but firmly to the Minister that the NHS is affected by what goes on in the social care system. Social care cuts are to all intents and purposes NHS cuts. I hope that he will get that message loudly and clearly and that the Prime Minister will stop insisting otherwise. All that demonstrates, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol South eloquently stated in her intervention, the need for a properly joined-up service. Labour Front Benchers have argued for that for some time and the previous Government were moving towards it. I am happy to provide guidance to the Minister on what we think should happen to that end, and to provide stern criticism if Ministers do not deliver.

I also want to talk briefly about the cost of agency workers, which the hon. Member for Angus (Mike Weir) touched on. The Health Secretary has belatedly sought to address that issue, but it has been years in the making. Ministers will know that hospitals have consistently cited recruitment difficulties, particularly for qualified nursing and medical staff and in accident and emergency departments. It is welcome that the number of training places has been increased in recent years, but it was a short-sighted mistake to cut the number of those places early in the previous Parliament. That has led in part to the present recruitment issues.

The Minister will know that the rising number of staff suffering from work-related stress has resulted in even more workforce pressures in the NHS. He will also know that the decision to cut nurse training posts has meant that many hospitals must either recruit from overseas or hire expensive agency workers. Health Ministers must make strong representations to Home Office Ministers, because if there was ever a sign of disjointed Government decisions, it was the recent announcement of changes to immigration policy. As we have already discussed, those changes may cause massive problems to some NHS trusts across the United Kingdom that already face challenges and have recruited from overseas.

The savings that the NHS will need to make in coming years are far more difficult than the low-hanging fruit or quick wins that some may think are available. All of us across the parties and across the constituent parts of the United Kingdom need to acknowledge that there will be no quick fixes to the challenge. There should be no mistaking how difficult things have been for many trusts in the past few years. The coming years will be just as difficult for them, if not more so. I hope that the Minister will agree in that context that we need a proper open debate, with all the facts, figures and information before us about where we can make the savings, and how we can ensure that more of the NHS’s funding is spent on what it does best—delivering high-quality patient care across the United Kingdom.

Order. Before I call the Minister I remind hon. Members of the new standing orders that allow the mover of the motion to wind up if there is time available. I am sure that the Minister will be mindful of that, with 30-plus minutes on the clock.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. It is indeed my first appearance in this role in Westminster Hall and, therefore, under your chairmanship here.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) on securing this important debate. I suspect that, in raising the important matters that he took up in his speech, he did not anticipate the glimpse of the promised land that the debate would give us. I have never sat in a debate on the NHS in this House—I have only been here for five years—when there was such a productive, interesting and bipartisan approach to such an important matter. I hope that it will be a model for things to come.

In seriousness, the differences between us, across the Floor, are far fewer than the things we agree on when we consider the NHS. A new Member, the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth), said in her speech that now the election is over we have a fantastic opportunity to forge a greater consensus on the NHS, which will be better for the service and patients, and especially, in the present context, for the people who work in it. They get fed up with the politicisation of the NHS, which has happened since its creation in 1948.

The hon. Lady hit the nail on the head in her excellent speech: efficiency really comes from quality. We begin to get an NHS system that is truly efficient in using the resources that the taxpayer puts at its disposal and the hard work of those who work in it when the first consideration is care quality and safety. If we try to build a system around quality and safety, the efficiencies will flow from that and excessive costs will start to fall out. Part of the problem with trying to find efficiency savings in the NHS—indeed, in any public body or private organisation—is that a purely cost-cutting approach will almost certainly fail, in terms of not only the quality of the product being delivered, but the efficiencies being sought. I very much welcome the hon. Lady’s intervention on that point, because that is where we need to begin.

All of that lies at the heart of Lord Carter’s excellent report. It is an interim report—he will publish his final report, with a great deal more detail, in the autumn—but he has understood that it is the patient who feels the effects of inefficiency first and foremost. Their experience of care is not what it should be, because of how rostering is arranged or medicines are dispensed and administered. He gave specific instances in his interim report—for example, the range of products available for hip replacements—of where choosing one product over another can mean dramatic differences in the occurrence of revisions. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said in his speech, cheapest is not always best. Sometimes, a slightly more expensive hip replacement joint can mean a much higher chance that someone does not have to come back for surgery again in a few years’ time. Such decisions about balance lie at the heart of patient care. If we get the balance right, we have a huge prize: better patient care and a more efficient, cost-effective service.

I want to run through the main points of Lord Carter’s report and reflect on them in the terms raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon. The NHS provides a varied picture of efficiency. The service has some of the most efficient hospitals in the world, but also some fantastically inefficient ones. That variation lies at the heart of the problem that we have to square in the next few years, which I will come to shortly when I address the specific points about the £22 billion target. As MPs, we all have anecdotal impressions from speaking to chief executives and managers in the NHS: they have come up with great ideas locally, but one knows immediately that no one is learning from that across the system. That was the case before the 2012 reorganisation, and it was case before all the previous reorganisations; it has been problem in the NHS since its inception.

We must also learn from best practice around the world. There is some fantastic practice around, and not only in France, Spain—specifically Valencia—and Germany; some of the best practice in the world for creating efficient healthcare is in American hospitals. I find it very exciting that there is some fantastic practice coming from Indian hospitals, because it shows how the world is changing. If we can draw in that expertise, we will do better for the NHS. I hope that, at the same time, we will export some of the best practice we have developed here—much of which has come from places not a million miles from the shadow Minister’s constituency—to hospitals and health systems around the world.

The changes in efficiency and productivity gains in the past few years have been considerable. Traditionally, the NHS has lagged behind in productivity improvements, but in the past few years it has overtaken productivity gains in the rest of the economy. Some of that has come from wage restraint, but there has been a genuine improvement in productivity, although it is not as much as we hope, anticipate and need to come over the next five years from system change, rather that just from wage restraint.

Lord Carter’s review covers some of the efficiency savings that can be made, especially in the provider sector. He has identified £5 billion of savings, of which £2 billion can come from improving workflow and workforce costs and £3 billion from static costs related to pharmacies, estates and procurement. As has been mentioned already, he has identified the fact that although there is much dispersed good practice, it is not shared, and there is no common understanding of what a good hospital looks like. On the back of Lord Carter’s principal recommendation, we are going to construct a good hospital. It will be a virtual hospital, so people will not be able to visit it, but they will be able to go to parts of it, because we are going to take the best practice and codify it.

Lord Carter has created a system called the adjusted treatment index, which is a rather dry term for an exciting idea. We will say, “This index is the best that the NHS is doing and we’re going to measure you all against it.” Every chief executive, manager and clinician will be able to see where their particular unit sits against the very best in the country. That will immediately prompt some questions: “Why are we not the best? Why are we a third or half of the way down? What can we do to close the gap?”

The second output from Lord Carter’s report is to provide a suggestion, in base terms, of how the poorest performing hospitals, along with those in the middle and those near the top, can improve and become the best. His final report will give far more detail, but this is of course a living process. We want to create a manual that will help clinicians to constantly improve their performance, measured against the very best—and the very best in the NHS will be measured against the very best in the world, so that our target keeps moving upward.

Lord Carter also identified issues with staffing, agency spend and locums, which formed the meat of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon. I will quickly go through what we plan to do. In the long term, it is clear that the expansion of nursing recruitment places will meet our objective to improve staffing ratios and the quality of care in hospitals, but we do have a backlog to fill. I do not want to break the bipartisan consensus, but the fall-off in recruitment places did begin before 2010. It picked up again in 2012-13, partly in response to the recommendations of the Francis report, but we still have some way to go to ensure that we are up to pace.

It has become clear that although there was a need for agency staffing to plug the shortfall, some have been abusing that position. Now that we are getting more and more nurses into the system, it is the right time to bear down on agency costs, which is why the measures outlined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State a couple of weeks ago will make such a difference, by giving chief executives the tools to ensure that they are not paying over the odds on agency spend.

On agency recruitment, does the Minister agree that we should encourage more young people to see the NHS as a good career? Young people such as those in my constituency, Bristol South, do not always get the advantages of university and further and higher education qualifications, and they do not see working for the NHS as a good and positive career. It is still a very good career—well paid and well remunerated by pensions and so on—but it is no one’s job, directly, to sell a career in the NHS in order to bring through the next generation of young people in places such as Bristol South to work in the NHS. That is not a hospital’s direct role. Health Education England is a new organisation and has that responsibility, but, in the spirit of bipartisanship and cross-departmental working, will the Minister take our advice and talk to colleagues in skills and development and support apprenticeships to encourage young people to come through and fill the gap currently filled by agencies?

I do not want to ruin the hon. Lady’s nascent reputation by agreeing with her again—happily, there are very few Opposition Members present to notice, although that is not an implied criticism—but she is absolutely right. We are lucky that nursing places are quite significantly over-subscribed. The position is popular, but she is absolutely right that we need to not only make far greater use of apprenticeships but widen the skills base in nursing full stop. We are actively working on that in the Department—I have spent much of the day on it, and I am sure there will be more to come.

To help chief executives in this interim period, we have forced all agencies that want to offer their services to ensure that they are doing so through framework contracts, and we are ensuring that there is an hourly cap on the rate that can be charged. We have also taken additional measures on managerial salaries, along with a few other measures, to ensure that managers have the opportunity to be able to manage costs as they wish. We understand, however, that this is the first stage of a much deeper programme of reform that is needed. Lord Carter’s report points in that direction by suggesting that we use our existing workforce far better, so that people are doing the job that they are suited to and qualified for and that their time is not wasted. That is the great win, not only for efficiency and patient care, but for staff enjoyment of their jobs.

The hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) made some helpful interventions about NHS workers’ quality of life. It has been a sad but persistent truth of the NHS for many years—decades, in fact—that staff-reported incidents of harassment and bullying have been higher than the national average and that workforce stress and illness is higher than average. Some of that is to be expected—parts of the NHS are extremely stressful working environments—but we can do much more. Part of that is about ensuring, when people turn up to work, that they are doing the job they wanted to do, with a suitable but not excessive degree of pressure, and that the system is not wasting their time. If we make them happier in their jobs, their patient care will improve and their commitment to the service will be even greater. I am therefore aware of the prize, not just in pounds, shillings and pence, but in an improvement to staff morale and therefore patient care.

One of the things that concerns me from a Northern Ireland perspective—this has also been raised in discussions with other Members in the Chamber today and outside—is that the NHS greatly relies on, in our case, Filipino workers, which is an immigration issue. Has the Minister had any discussions with the Minister for Immigration, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire), to ensure that there will be no shortfall when the gaps left by those who are here on work visas need to be filled and that the quality service in the NHS will not be lost? The hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) referred to training people to ensure that keen, interested and able replacements are available. Has the Minister given any thought to that?

I was going to come on to that, so I shall do so now that the hon. Gentleman has prompted me. There have been long and deep discussions about this. Our estimate is that no more than 700 nurses will be affected by the time the new rules are in place, which is a different number from that given by the Royal College of Nursing, whose number we do not recognise. It is small challenge given the scale of the workforce and one that we will surmount at the time, but we must see it within the broader policy of reducing immigration to this country from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands—a policy that has broad support across the House and certainly in the country at large. It would be wrong for the largest employer in the country—one of the largest employers in the world—to exempt itself from that overall ambition.

In the end, we will achieve a sustainable workforce in this country only if we do all we can to ensure that those who are British and have grown up here and want to work in the NHS have the opportunity to do so. That is why it is important that we widen and open the avenues into working in the NHS, as the hon. Member for Bristol South suggested, over the next few years, in order to meet the challenge to which the hon. Member for Strangford alluded.

I want to quickly run through the other issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon. On master vendors, he has a specific issue regarding some constituents with whom he has been dealing, but I understand that master vendors are managed under a series of arrangements with the Crown Commercial Service. Officials will meet with that organisation soon to discuss the overall issues around master vendors. It is for individual trusts to make such purchasing decisions, but I understand the issue he has raised and the terms in which he put it, and I will ensure that it is investigated properly.

My hon. Friend identified two areas involving agencies and fraud. Fraud is of course unacceptable, and the NHS has quite good systems for identifying it. Given the scale of the NHS, I find it surprising—it is entirely to the credit of those who work in the NHS—that fraud makes up such a tiny proportion of the excessive costs in the NHS.

On the revalidation of locum doctors, for which the General Medical Council is responsible, some doctors find it difficult to gather all the required supporting information needed for revalidation due to the peripatetic nature of the work. To help with that, specific guidance is available for both the doctors and their employers via NHS England and NHS Employers. Locum doctors are part of a larger issue about agency spend and foreign workers working in the NHS. I imagine that the three organisations will come together in the next few years to produce a more stable situation.

[Mr James Gray in the Chair]

Let me turn to the remaining points of the hon. Member for Bristol South. On the stability of the system, I hope and anticipate that one product of the general election is that the system will be broadly stable over the next five years. We intend to continue with the current structure of the NHS. There will be some small changes, such as that identified by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State last week concerning the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor, but we are broadly content with how the system is set up. We must now proceed to ensure that it works.

The shadow Minister made a point about structures and fragmentation. There will always be a genuine dilemma here, because one can approach any system and say that change can be achieved by altering structures, but changing structures can lead to the same outcome. That has been the story of the NHS since its inception. It would be a mistake to think—the hon. Member for Bristol South and the shadow Minister were not suggesting this—that a structural change would somehow produce the outcomes that we all want. The priority is to ensure that the system’s wiring works correctly—that everyone’s interests are aligned and that the incentives are correct—so that people want to sit around the table and come to a considered decision, which can too often not be the case when there is an adversarial relationship between providers, producers and purchasers. That is why I hope that the system’s stability over the next five years will allow us to focus on the significant challenges mentioned by the shadow Minister.

When discussing competition rules, we often talk of public versus private, but two public parts of the NHS can also compete. Another NHS trust might have the tender for providing a service in another area and an integrated care organisation might want to bring that back in-house.

Absolutely. There are examples of that all over the country, but there are also examples of people working together in what might be considered competitive situations, so it is about ensuring that we copy the best and delete the worst.

Before I turn to the shadow Minister’s comments, I want to reflect on the contribution of the hon. Member for Angus (Mike Weir). The SNP spokesperson on health, the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), has used a constructive tone in the Chamber so far, bringing some of her expert experiences as a clinician and also the experiences from Scotland. It is nice to be able to sit here and hear the experiences of people in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, and it would have been nice to have heard from Wales in this debate. Indeed, we do not yet properly learn from the best in Scotland, which would be all to our good, let alone the best in America or India.

The £22 billion in savings is an estimate not from the King’s Fund but from NHS England. It formed part of its plan, devised at the end of last year and some years in the making, which identified £30 billion of additional money that needs to be put into the service over the next five years. It stated that £22 billion could be generated internally—that was Simon Stevens’ estimate—which leaves an £8 billion shortfall. That is what we are pledged to provide. None the less, he, like everyone in the Chamber, has correctly seen that £22 billion is a large number and one that will take a great deal of intellectual and moral work to deliver. I welcome the tone with which everyone has approached this challenge in the debate.

The reference to the King’s Fund was to make the point that it said that this was a tall order, as I think the Minister himself is admitting.

It is not a tall order, but it is a challenging one. Whoever was sitting in my place, from whatever party, would be facing a similar challenge, no matter how the needs over the next five years were framed. The challenge must be addressed, and it is better addressed if we all come together to do so.

The hon. Gentleman touched on pharmaceutical savings, which I have not yet addressed, and Lord Carter’s comments on them. Lord Carter will make more detailed recommendations later in the year, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that there is much to be done to ensure that we save money on the provision and purchasing of drugs and by not wasting them. Lord Carter is looking at that, and the service is already implementing his initial recommendations.

New drugs are a problem faced by health services across the world. Indeed, it is a profound challenge, because the new drugs coming online are of an expense that has never been experienced in health systems before. They are also for increasingly small numbers of patients, precisely because they are personalised, which drives up the cost even further. That is why the Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), is bringing forward his accelerated access review and doing some exciting work, trying to use the muscle of the NHS—our ability to be an research lab, effectively—for those developing new drugs, so that we can use the NHS to drive costs down and provide patients with treatments earlier and more cheaply. There is a win-win there, but it requires a fundamental change in the system, which at the moment is not working.

Finally, I turn to the comments of the shadow Minister, mindful of the need to give my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon time to wrap up. I thank the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish for his kind welcome; it was good of him to say that. I hope that over the next couple of years we will be able to thrash out some of these difficult issues in the manner in which he has begun the process. If we do so, we will come to a better understanding of what is needed in our national health service.

The hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions, such as where the £8 billion is coming from. I believe it is coming from general taxation—my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will be providing greater details of that in the Budget next week. The hon. Gentleman also asked where the £22 billion was coming from. NHS England has devised the plan. It is NHS England’s plan to implement, and it will provide further detail about the £22 billion shortly. It will be an evolving plan that will necessarily change over the five years. NHS England is confident that it is achievable, but it will take some incredible heavy lifting by all of us and, dare I say it, the dropping of political shibboleths throughout the House—if one can drop a shibboleth; I am not sure.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of provider deficits, which is a problem across the system. He will know that there was a similar issue towards the end of the Labour Administration—in CCGs, rather than in hospitals. It does not necessarily require more money; it requires getting a grip on where the problem is. We have started that with announcements on agency spending. Many trusts in the country are doing well financially. Not surprisingly, they are often the trusts that are also delivering good care, because—to return to the comments of the hon. Member for Bristol South—if the care is right, the money flows from it. That is why Lord Carter’s review and a concentration on care quality will, we hope, produce the savings that we need, not just at this immediate moment to address provider deficits, but to achieve the £22 billion.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish also mentioned sales reps and procurement. I absolutely agree that the subject is covered in the report from Lord Carter. The numbers of product lines certainly should come down. I am not sure that the NHS, before having greater responsibility for purchasing, was any better at buying, but we need to be better at it. Procurement is a science. It is not one that I pretend to know a great deal about, but I know that in the end we will always end up in not quite the right place, because we might centralise too much, which takes away decision-making from the trust responsible. That is why we have to get the balance right.

On the cost of competition, the hon. Gentleman quoted a figure of £100 million. However, I understand that the costs of the reorganisation have been outweighed by the benefits, to the tune of about £1.5 billion annually. I think we all agree across the House on the producer-provider split. There will always be a degree of competition in the NHS; it is about getting the balance right between competition and collaboration.

In the last 30 seconds, let me touch on sub-acute services. The hon. Gentleman made his most pointed—and fair—remarks about the need to integrate social care with the NHS. The Government’s contention is that creating a new national structure for health and social care does not produce the end that we all want to see. That is why we want to see local solutions—we believe a good one is already emerging in Manchester—across the country, which will suit different areas according to their needs. In the end, we come back to money. We all know that money will be tight in local government. Our aim over the next few years is to ensure that as much of the resources that we can put into local government are going towards social care. That is the essence of the better care fund, which lies at the heart of what we are doing on integration over the next five years. I know the hon. Gentleman will want to comment on that as we proceed on those lines.

I thank all Members who have spoken in what has been an invigorating debate from which I have learnt a great deal. I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon for raising these important issues.

It was a pleasure to start the debate under the chairmanship of Mr Pritchard and, indeed, it is a pleasure to finish under you, Mr Gray.

The debate was fantastic, but not entirely what I expected. The NHS is often used as a political football. I thank the Members present for their contributions and for highlighting some issues for me to consider, as well as for the Department and the Minister to consider.

The personal NHS experience of the hon. Member for Bristol South (Karin Smyth) is welcome not only in the debate, but in the House as a whole, and I look forward to her contribution to other debates. I thank her for today’s contribution, which was important.

I was surprised at first by the hon. Member for Angus (Mike Weir), because the Carter review looked at England, and I wondered where the hon. Gentleman’s contributions would go, but I am pleased that both he and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) spoke about the devolved institutions and the lessons that can be learned throughout the United Kingdom from Lord Carter’s report. That is a great way for us to work as a one nation country.

I am grateful for the comments of the shadow Minister, who made some points about NHS procurement. Some issues about extraction from European Union procurement programmes still need to be resolved—I understand that the shadow Health Secretary, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), says that that can happen, but Simon Stevens does not believe that is correct—so there are some good things for the Minister to go away and think about. I will certainly take them away too, and I am grateful for that.

In the short time I have available, I want to say a little about the response to the Carter review. There has been a positive response from the Royal College of Nursing, which not only acknowledged that nursing numbers have not been meeting demand, but stated:

“It is clear that there is waste in the NHS, which is holding it back from directing its resources to frontline patient care. Lord Carter’s review is a welcome illustration of how the NHS and individual hospitals could be much more effective in how they procure equipment, drugs, and above all staff.”

As the Minister said, we as parliamentarians therefore have a great opportunity to engage in the issue. As I said at the start of my speech, it came up at many hustings. It is often said that the Conservatives are not strong on the NHS, but I think we have a good story to tell. If we carry on in the same vein, and if the Minister carries on in the way he spoke today and in the recent debate in the main Chamber, that will please me and other colleagues.

I have been unfortunate enough in the past nine months to have need of the NHS, but I have been fortunate enough that it has been there. I am grateful. I have attended Moorfields, the BMI in east London and the Whittington with fairly serious issues. Indeed, my father-in-law had a hip operation on Friday, so I am grateful to the hospital in Swindon as well for making that happen. The care that he and I received has been second to none and I am grateful. I hope that it may continue to be such and that today’s debate will continue our efforts to make the NHS the best national health system in the world.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered operational productivity in NHS providers.