Skip to main content

NHS: Winter Pressures

Volume 600: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2015

9. What additional financial support he is making available to the NHS to help it deal with winter pressures. (901465)

17. What additional financial support he is making available to the NHS to help it deal with winter pressures. (901473)

Some £400 million in resilience money has been invested in the NHS for this winter. Learning from previous years, we have put this money into the NHS baseline for 2015-16 so that the NHS can plan effectively at an earlier stage.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. In my constituency we have an excellent and much-used facility—a walk-in centre in Middleton town centre—which is now threatened with closure. Will he support our campaign to keep it open? Does he agree that its closure would create more A&E attendances and increase winter pressures on our acute services?

I welcome the question and understand the hon. Lady’s concerns about the changes. She will understand that we do not direct these changes centrally and they are decided locally. One of the things we have to try to do is deal with the confusion a lot of people have at a local level as to what they should do when they have, for instance, a child with fever at the weekends and whether they require a GP, an urgent care centre or an A&E department. I would ask all CCGs to be very careful to make sure they sort out that confusion so NHS patients know exactly what they should do.

The Royal Free hospital in my constituency is at the cutting edge of medical research and is currently treating Ebola patient Pauline Cafferkey. I am sure the Secretary of State will join me in wishing her a speedy recovery, yet the hospital faced considerable winter pressures last year. Will the Secretary of State work with the fantastic nurses and doctors at the Royal Free to ensure these winter pressures do not happen again this year?

I thank the hon. Lady for her excellent question. I know that the whole House is thinking of Pauline Cafferkey and her family and that it is proud that, under Dr Mike Jacobs and his team, she is getting the most outstanding care that it is possible to get anywhere in the world. We all wish her a speedy recovery. With respect to winter pressures, I know that the Royal Free had a difficult winter but I also know that it has a very good management team and made heroic efforts. I know that the whole team of doctors and nurses will do an excellent job, and we will want to support them in any way we can.

As part of my right hon. Friend’s plans for dealing with winter pressures, will he look at making greater use of the 63,000 practitioners on the Professional Standards Authority’s 17 accredited registers covering 25 occupations? Has he found time yet to read the authority’s report, “Accredited Registers—Ensuring that health and care practitioners are competent and safe”?

I must confess that I have not yet read that report, but my hon. Friend has reminded me of how important it is that I should do so. I will read it carefully while thinking about whether it could help us to get through the winter pressures this year.

Kettering general hospital, the local clinical commissioning group and the Government are all agreed that the best way to help the NHS in north Northamptonshire to cope with pressures all year round, including in the winter, would be to develop a £30 million urgent care hub at Kettering general hospital. That project is with Monitor. What can the Secretary of State do to encourage Monitor to speed up its deliberations?

Once again, I thank my hon. Friend for his persistent campaigning on behalf of Kettering general hospital. It is a very busy hospital under a great deal of pressure, and I know that people work very hard there. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), who has responsibility for hospitals, met campaigners from Kettering recently to discuss this issue, and I will bring the matter up with Monitor as well.

The Department of Health’s own figures show a dramatic change, from a £500 million surplus to a £100 million deficit in 2013, following the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. That deficit moved to £800 million last year and we have heard in the past week that it stood at more than £900 million from the first quarter of this year. Does the Secretary of State recognise that this situation has been exacerbated by the outsourcing and fragmentation of the NHS, which involves spending money on shareholder profits and tendering bureaucracy, rather than on patients?

I do not. That Act meant that we reduced the number of managers and administrators in the NHS in England by 19,000, saving the NHS £1.5 billion a year. The reason for the deficits that the hon. Lady talks about is that, around the same time, we had the Francis report on Mid Staffs, and hospitals in England were absolutely determined to end the scandal of short-staffing. However, agency staffing is not a sustainable way of doing that, which is why we are taking measures today to change that.

The Francis report recognised the problems of nursing levels. As hospitals will not be able to use agency staff or immigrant staff, how does the Secretary of State suggest they tackle the nursing ratios in hospitals?

If the hon. Lady looks at what has happened with permanent full-time nursing staff, she will see that the numbers have gone up in our hospitals by 8,000 over the past two years, so there are alternatives. We need to do more to help the NHS in this respect, and I will be announcing something about that shortly.