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Hospital Trusts: Deficits

Volume 604: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2016

John Appleby, the chief economist at the independent think tank the King’s Fund, said recently that although the Government claim they will get an increase in funding in the NHS, they have

“in effect, already spent the money”

because of the scale of the hospital deficits. In my South Tees area, the deficit for 2014-15 is nearly £17 million. Will the Minister accept that the Government have totally lost control of NHS finances?

The first point to make is that this Government have provided the money for the NHS that it has asked for—this is money the Opposition refused to say they would pledge at the last election. The second point to make is that Jim Mackey, the new chief executive of NHS Improvement and one of the best chief executives in the NHS, has said that he will help to get hospital trusts in control next year, and that, with the transformation fund announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, we are confident we will be able to get hospital trusts into balance next year.

Does the Minister agree that clamping down on expensive temporary agency staff is an important step in helping to sort out the NHS and allowing it to balance the books?

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and we are already having an impact. We had to bring in the requirement for safer staffing rotas because of the catastrophe at Mid Staffs and the need to try to staff hospitals better, and that had an immediate consequence which called for agency workers. Unfortunately, some companies have taken advantage of that situation, but we have introduced measures to stop that and are already having an impact across the service.

The University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust faces a deficit of £19 million for 2015-16, but until the NHS’s Staffordshire review is completed it faces uncertain prospects further out, not least as it has taken over Stafford county hospital recently. The hospital wrote to the Minister before Christmas, so will he meet hospital management and local MPs as soon as possible this new year to discuss this uncertain situation and the progress on the whole Staffordshire review?

I would be happy to meet them, I will meet them and I congratulate them on eliminating 12-hour trolley waits for the first time this year. They are doing a great job in difficult circumstances, as are many hospitals across the country. I am confident that they, too, will be able to get their deficit under control next year, with the help of the transformation fund, which is available for high-performing trusts.