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House of Commons Hansard
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Oral Answers to Questions
09 February 2016
Volume 605

Health

The Secretary of State was asked—

Public Health Grants

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1. What steps his Department has taken to ensure that public health grants are spent only on public health responsibilities. [903534]

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The local authority public health grant is ring-fenced and must be spent in line with published grant conditions set by the Government. Local authority chief executives and directors of public health are required to certify that grant spend is in line with these conditions. In addition, Public Health England further reviews spending information and local authority spend against the grant is subject to external audit.

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In 2014-15, my city of Plymouth received £47 per head. Portsmouth, which is statistically healthier, received £77 and Kensington and Chelsea got £136. I absolutely understand that this is a legacy issue with the funding formula, and the Government are committed to dealing with it, but I cannot stress enough how important it is that we speed this up. How does the Department plan to achieve this? The current situation is grossly unfair to my constituents.

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I applaud my hon. Friend for being a champion of public health in his community. We have had several conversations on this issue. As he says, there are historical differences, of which I am conscious, in the levels of local public health spending. They mostly arise from historical primary care trust spending priorities. We have made some progress in addressing the matter, but, as regards future allocations, we are considering a full range of factors, including the impact on inequalities and existing services. Those will be announced shortly. As I have told him before, the chief executive of Public Health England is happy to talk to him about the specific challenges facing his community, and that offer remains open.

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The NHS “Five Year Forward View” states that

“the future health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain all now depend on a radical upgrade in prevention and public health.”

How will the in-year cuts this year and the future 4% real cuts in public health help to achieve that objective?

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The challenge of being serious about prevention is one for the entire health and social care system. We acknowledge that, like many parts of government, public health grants have had to absorb some of the fiscal challenge. We are dealing with the problems we inherited at the beginning of the coalition Government. Despite that, local authorities will receive £16 billion in public health grants alone over the spending review period, but that is not the only way we invest in prevention. On my many visits, I have seen some of the great work being done to work with local authorities, and I am confident of the great things they can do with that money.

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19. Given the report by the Crisp commission, released in the last few days, on mental health provision and treatments, can the Minister provide any assurance about the equitable treatment of physical and mental health to ensure an equal allocation of funds? [903552]

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There is rightly a great deal of attention on this area—more tier 4 beds have been commissioned, for example—but I want to stress what is being done in my area of public health. Right at the heart of our new tobacco strategy, which we are beginning to work on, is a concern for the inequity facing people suffering from mental ill health in terms of smoking levels. I can reassure the hon. Lady that across the piece we are considering how we can do more for those who suffer with mental health problems.

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Access to contraception is not only a fundamental right but a cost-effective public health intervention—every £1 spent on contraception saves the NHS £11—yet the Government are presiding over savage cuts to public health services. It is predicted that £40 million will be cut from sexual health services this financial year alone. Is that what the Minister means when she says the Government are serious about prevention? Why does she not finally admit that these cuts not only make no financial sense but could put the nation’s health at risk?

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I reject that analysis. It is for local authorities to take decisions on local public health spending, but they are mandated by legislation to commission open-access sexual health services that meet the needs of their local population, and in fact there is a great deal of innovation around the country in how people are doing that. For example, in Leeds, they are redesigning services to enable people to access sexual health. [Interruption.] The shadow Minister laughs, but the question of how much they would have invested in the NHS goes unanswered by the Opposition—a question that was never answered at the general election. On prevention, as I have said, the public health grant is not everything. In the next financial year alone, for example, the Department will spend £320 million on vaccines. We have introduced two world firsts: the child flu programme and the meningitis B immunisation programme. Right across the piece, this Government are investing in prevention and in our NHS.

Hospital Trusts: Special Measures

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2. What progress his Department has made on improving the performance of hospital trusts in special measures. [903535]

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9. What progress his Department has made on improving the performance of hospital trusts in special measures. [903542]

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12. What progress his Department has made on improving the performance of hospital trusts in special measures. [903545]

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Eleven out of 27 hospitals have now exited special measures, having demonstrated sustainable improvements in the quality of care. Overall, trusts put into special measures have recruited 1,389 more doctors and 4,402 more nurses, with one estimate saying this has reduced mortality rates by 450 lives a year.

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Following the recent Care Quality Commission report on the Medway hospital, the staff and new chief executive are working hard to turn around long, historic and deep problems. What further support can the Secretary of State and the Government offer the hospital to help turn it around and get it out of special measures? I thank the Secretary of State and his Department for the support they have given to the hospital so far.

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I thank my hon. Friend for his enormous support for that hospital, which has been through a very difficult patch. I had a long meeting with the chief inspector of hospitals about the Medway yesterday. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that, over the past five years, we got 106 more doctors and 26 more nurses into the trust. We now have a link with Guy’s and St Thomas’s that is beginning to bear fruit. There is a lot more to do, but we are determined to ensure that we do not sweep these problems under the carpet and that we deal with them quickly and deliver safer care for my hon. Friend’s constituents.

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My right hon. Friend will know of some of the terrible problems experienced in Shropshire with respect to clinical commissioning groups and the trust, particularly over the future fit programme and A&E services in the county. The Royal Shrewsbury hospital covers a huge area—not just Shropshire, but the whole of mid-Wales. Will my right hon. Friend give me an assurance that he will do everything possible to support me and the residents of Shrewsbury to guarantee that A&E services remain at the Royal Shrewsbury hospital?

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First, I thank my hon. Friend for his campaigning on behalf of the Royal Shrewsbury; no one could do more than he has over many years. I encourage him to engage carefully with the future fit programme. In the end, it is incredibly important to get the right answer for patients. My hon. Friend has been supportive of the process, but like him, I would like to see it concluded sooner rather than later.

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Will the Secretary of State set out for my Worcestershire constituents what impact the putting of trusts into special measures is likely to have this year and what improvements can be expected when the trust exits special measures?

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The advantage of the special measures programme is that we tend to make much faster progress in turning round hospitals in difficulty than used to happen in previous years. My hon. Friend will know that, in the past five years, his local trust gained nearly 50 more doctors and more than 100 more nurses. We are making progress, but we need to do it much faster. The hospital will have my full support in getting these problems dealt with quickly.

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Walsall NHS trust has been placed into special measures, so what immediate action can the Secretary of State take to ensure that the Manor hospital can recruit the vital staff in paediatrics and A&E that it now needs—not agency staff, but long-term fully employed staff?

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The hon. Lady is absolutely right that one thing that can tip hospitals into special measures is having too high a proportion of staff from agencies so that a trust cannot offer the continuity of care that other trusts can. There have been an extra 83 full-time doctors at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust over the past five years, along with 422 full-time nurses. An improvement director started this week and we are looking to find a buddy hospital, which is what I think will help most. When it comes to turning hospitals round the fastest, we have found that having a partner hospital can have the biggest effect, as with Guy’s and St Thomas’s for the Medway.

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Despite having a football team at the top of the premier league, the hospitals of Leicester are in need of urgent assistance. The worry for Leicester is that they will slip into special measures, particularly regarding A&E. What steps can the right hon. Gentleman take to ensure that our hospitals perform as well as Leicester City football club?

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We want to them to be as outstanding as Leicester City football club, but we recognise that there is some way to go. There is pressure on A&E departments, as the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), has acknowledged in the House, and we are giving careful thought to what we can do to support them. Leicester will be one of the first trusts in the country to offer full seven-day services from March or April 2017 onwards, so important improvements are being made, but we will do all that we can to ensure that they happen quickly.

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Calderdale and Huddersfield trust is not in special measures, but it is in trouble, and we are likely to lose our A&E service—in one of the biggest towns in Britain—if we follow the recommendations of the CCG. Does the Secretary of State agree that when hospitals and trusts get into trouble, it is usually because of poor management? What can we do to improve the management of hospitals, and, in particular, what can we do about people who, because they are GPs, think that they are managers?

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The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. I think that there are some things that we just need to do differently. For instance, we should allow managers to remain in their posts for longer. If the average tenure of NHS chief executives is only about two years, their horizons will inevitably be very short-term, so we need to give them enough time to turn their organisations around. The chief executive of the latest trust to be given an “outstanding” measure, Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has been there for 26 years, and I think there is a connection. We can ensure that managers have the necessary resources. I think we can also make sure that we identify their problems quickly, and give them support before those problems turn into a crisis.

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Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust is working extremely hard to improve its services and has already achieved considerable success, but although there are 250 spare home beds in the London borough of Havering, there are still a great many frail elderly patients in hospital who are no longer clinically ill. Has any research been done on the reasons for delayed discharge, and to what extent does patient choice play a part in it?

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Unfortunately, it sometimes plays a part, but the main way to tackle the problem is to establish better co-ordination between what local authorities do, what the CCGs do and what the trusts do. That applies not just to my hon. Friend’s local trust, but to trusts throughout the NHS. I do, however, commend her local trust. At its last inspection, the CQC found that it had made significant progress. It has more doctors, more nurses and, in my view, an excellent chief executive, and I am very confident about its future.

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Sixteen trusts across the country are currently in special measures, nine out of 10 hospitals are failing to fulfil their own safe staffing plans and waiting time targets are being missed so often that failure is becoming the norm. Does the Secretary of State think that that might explain why, as we learned yesterday, a King’s Fund survey has found that dissatisfaction with the NHS increased by eight percentage points in 2015? That is the largest single-year increase since the surveys began in 1983.

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The hon. Lady might want to look more closely at that King’s Fund report before turning it into a political football. According to page 6, satisfaction rates in Wales—run by her party—are six percentage points lower than those in England.

Let me tell the hon. Lady exactly what is happening with the special measures regime. We are being honest about the problems and sorting them out, rather than sweeping them under the carpet, which is what caused the problems that we experienced with Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay and a range of other hospitals. At the same time, we are putting more money into the NHS and helping it to deal with its deficits, we are treating more people, and public confidence in the safety and dignity of the care that people are given is at record levels.

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It is clear that the Secretary of State does not want to talk about his record in England. His own Back Benchers are queueing up to tell him about the problems in their NHS areas of Medway, Shropshire and Worcestershire, but he seems not to understand the extent of those problems.

Let us return to what the public think. Satisfaction with the NHS has fallen by five percentage points; dissatisfaction has risen by eight percentage points; satisfaction with GP services is at the lowest rate ever recorded; and satisfaction with A&E stands at just 53%. We know that the Secretary of State has lost the confidence of doctors, but is that not the clearest sign yet that he has lost the confidence of patients, too?

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What my Back Benches are queueing up to say is, “Thank you for sorting out the problems that Labour swept under the carpet for years and years.” What did Professor Brian Jarman of Imperial College say about the Department of Health under the last Labour Government? He said that it was a “denial machine”, with all the problems in hospitals being swept under the carpet and not dealt with. What is happening under this Government? Every day, 100 more people are being treated for cancer, 2,000 more people are being seen within four hours at A&E departments and 4,400 more operations are being carried out. There are record numbers of doctors and nurses, and the NHS is safer than ever in its history. We are proud to be the party of the NHS.

GP Access

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3. What estimate he has made of the number of patients who went to A&E after having been unable to make an appointment with their GP in the most recent period for which figures are available. [903536]

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The results of the last GP patient survey show that 91.9% of all patients get convenient appointments. Of the 8% who are unable to get an appointment or a convenient appointment, 4.2% indicated that they went to A&E.

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The same survey indicates that one in four people are now waiting more than a week to see their GP, and a staggering 1 million people are heading off to A&E because they cannot get an appointment with their GP. It is a total meltdown. What is the Minister doing about it?

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There are 40 million more appointments available for GPs than in the past. The Government have made a commitment to transform GP access, and £175 million has been invested to test improved and innovative access to GP services. There are 57 schemes involving 2,500 practices, and by March next year more than 18 million patients—a third of the population—will have benefited from improved access and transformed service at local level. That is what we are doing about it.[Official Report, 22 February 2016, Vol. 606, c. 2MC.]

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The Minister will be aware that, despite great improvements in cancer care under this Government and the previous Government, one in five cancer patients—more than 20%—are first diagnosed as late as when they go to A&E. The Government rightly focus on one-year survival rates as a means of driving forward earlier diagnosis. Can he give me an assurance that that will remain a key focus?

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My hon. Friend raises a serious issue. Pursuing the earliest diagnosis of cancer is very important to the Government; it is obviously also important to all patients. We are going to publish the statistics on early detection through the clinical commissioning groups to improve transparency still further, because as this Government have shown, transparency often drives improvement in performance.

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24. Can the Minister tell me how the Government are urgently going to tackle safety of care at the North Middlesex hospital A&E department, following revelations last week that a patient died at the hospital in December 2015 after being forced to wait an unacceptable time in A&E? The department has also received a notification of risk. [903557]

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The hon. Lady gives an example of why it is so important to continue to seek to improve the quality of care in A&E and why it is so important to keep transparency going. This is one of the reasons that we have a new inspection regime, which has been designed to highlight these things, but the introduction of 1,250 new doctors in accident and emergency departments over the past five years will also make a difference to the improvement in quality of care. However, she is right to highlight this matter. The NHS does not do everything right, but what is important is that we value what is done with the vast majority of stuff and that, when things do go wrong, we say so, we examine them and we learn lessons.

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According to information that I have received, 16 of the 25 ambulances on duty in Leicestershire one evening before Christmas were queueing outside Leicester royal infirmary to discharge patients. I have written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about this issue. Please will the Minister update me and the House on the steps he thinks we should be taking?

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The issue with ambulances and with quality of care elsewhere is the variation in quality. It is so important to ensure that local leadership addresses those local problems, because they are handled very differently in different places. It is right for my hon. Friend to raise this matter, and I am sure he has raised it with his local ambulance trust, as well as the hospital, to see how there can be better facilitation of patients going in and being discharged so that ambulances need not queue.

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The Health and Social Care Information Centre has shown that last year 124,000 patients waited more than 12 hours after arrival at accident and emergency, which compares with a figure of 1,700 in Scotland, and the number has doubled since 2013. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has explained that these tend to be the sickest patients and that this delay is associated with increased mortality, so how do the Minister and the Secretary of State plan to improve that performance?

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I have to tell the hon. Lady that patient satisfaction with A&E was rather lower in Scotland than it is in England, which indicates that we all have problems to deal with in this area. It is correct that we continue our progress both to increase resources throughout the health service and to A&E, and to improve transparency and people’s ability to see what is going on. Unacceptable waits are not part of what we all want to see from the NHS, which is why we are determined to drive them down. Patients in England will have the best information anywhere in the world about what is happening in their NHS, as we continue to drive efficiency and improvement.

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Patients will not have the information about the four-hour waits, as that has not been published since November. The doctors required to look after these people are A&E specialists. There is already a major problem in retaining A&E trainees because they work a higher proportion of unsocial hours. These are exactly the hours that will be less rewarded in the new contract, so how does the Secretary of State plan to recruit and retain doctors in emergency medicine in the future?

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There have been 500 more consultants in A&E medicine since 2010. The new contract is under negotiation at the moment and the majority of it has been agreed with junior doctors. It is designed to replace the failures in the old contract, which everyone knew needed to be corrected, and it provides the basis for the profession for the future to deal with some of the issues the hon. Lady mentions. All of us are concerned to ensure that the negotiations continue and that there should be no strike tomorrow, so that this pattern for the future, which is wanted by doctors and patients alike, as well as by the Government, gets a chance to work.

Independent Healthcare Commission: North-West London

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4. What assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the findings of the Independent Healthcare Commission on the NHS in north-west London. [903537]

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It might assist the House if I were just to mention that this commission was commissioned by five Labour councils and was chaired by Michael Mansfield, QC. On the assessment of the commission’s findings, I can put it no better than the lead medical director for the “Shaping a Healthier Future” project, who said:

“The unanimous conclusion of the board’s clinicians was that the report offered no substantive evidence or credible alternative to consider that would lead to better outcomes for patients…above the existing plans in place”.

I concur with that judgment.

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Last July, the Minister held a constructive meeting with west London MPs and agreed that information on the review of our hospital services would be shared. We understand that a plan B is being considered that will still move hospital services from Charing Cross and Ealing but, because of rising costs, will retain and mothball existing buildings rather than redeveloping the sites. Can we see the current plans?

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The hon. Gentleman rightly says that we had a constructive meeting but, as with everything in this area, it is time to move on. There is a grave danger of him appearing to be like one of those soldiers discovered on a Pacific island after the second world war still fighting the old war. Part of the reason for cost escalation in NHS projects is the constant challenge and delay, and “Shaping a Healthier Future” has complete clinical consensus across north-west London. The clinicians say that this

“will save many lives each year”.

It is time to get on with this project.

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The report heavily features Ealing hospital, where the radiographer Sharmila Chowdhury blew the whistle on consultants taking bungs—extra payments. She is now jobless and, as a widow with a mortgage, soon to be homeless. Will the Minister urgently look into her case, because despite a plethora of reports—this one and the Francis review—this Government do not seem to be doing anything for her?

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I do not think that is fair. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of State has met the clinician in question, and the Francis review recommendations, as we have adopted them, make it quite clear that staff have a right to speak out. Of course we want everyone to speak out on behalf of patient safety.

Hospital Trusts: Deficits

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5. What proportion of hospital trusts are in deficit? [903538]

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Trusts reported a net deficit of £1.6 billion for the first half of this financial year, with 75% of trusts reporting a deficit, which is why, last week, we launched the Carter efficiency programme in which Lord Carter confirmed that hospitals can save £5 billion annually by making sensible improvements to procurement and staff rostering.

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Almost every acute trust will be in deficit in the coming year, including Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Whiston and St Helens hospitals, which cover my constituency. The fact is that the Government have been slow in dealing with one of the causes of the deficit, which is the employment of great numbers of agency staff. They also want to cut the tariff, which is based on efficiency savings, leaving hospitals such as Whiston and St Helens, which are among the most efficient in the country, struggling to make greater efficiencies. Will the Secretary of State look at that matter again?

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The hon. Gentleman should give a slightly more complete picture of what is happening in his hospitals. There are nearly 2,000 more operations every year, 7,000 more MRI scans, and 7,000 more CT scans than there were five years ago. When it comes to the issue of deficits, we are tackling the agency staff issue. That happened because trusts were responding to the Francis report into what happened in Mid Staffs. Rightly, they wanted to staff up quickly, but it needs to be done on a sustainable basis. I simply say to him that if we were putting £5.5 billion less into the NHS every year, as he stood for at the previous election, the problems would be a whole lot worse.

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Does my right hon. Friend not agree that running costs in the NHS, which vary from £105 to £970 per square metre per year as highlighted by Lord Carter, are wholly unacceptable, and that the concept of a model hospital to bring the worst up to the standard of the best, which was also highlighted by Lord Carter, has great merit?

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My hon. Friend knows about these things from his own clinical background, and he is absolutely right. We are now doing something—it is probably the most ambitious programme anywhere in the world—to identify the costs that hospitals are paying. From April, we will be collecting the costs for the 100 most used products in the NHS for every hospital. That information will be shared. We are the biggest purchaser of healthcare equipment in the world, so we should be paying the lowest prices.

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Barts Health NHS Trust, the UK’s largest hospital trust, is set to run up a £135 million deficit this year. That would be by far the greatest ever overspend in the history of the NHS. When will the Minister accept the sheer scale of the austerity-driven crisis facing the NHS?

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It is stretching things a bit to call that an austerity-driven problem when, next year, we are putting in the sixth biggest increase in funding for the NHS in its entire 70-year history. There are some severe problems at Barts, but we will tackle the deficit. We also need to ensure that we improve patient safety and patient care.

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The staff of the University Hospitals of North Midlands to whom my right hon. Friend entrusted the care of County Hospital in Stafford and the Royal Stoke University Hospital have done a great job both in improving the quality of care and in bringing down the deficit. Will he ensure that a long-term approach is taken to the finances of that trust so that we do not make rapid decisions that could result in difficult situations in the future?

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As ever, my hon. Friend speaks very wisely. When we are reducing these deficits and costs, the trick is to take a strategic approach and not to make short-term sacrifices that harm patients. That is why, at the weekend, we announced a £4.2 billion IT investment programme, which will mean that doctors and nurses spend less time filling out forms and more time with their patients.

GP Access

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6. What further steps he plans to take to improve access to GPs. [903539]

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By 2020, everyone will be able to get GP appointments at evenings and weekends. By March this year, a third of the country—18 million people—will have benefited from improved access to GP services.

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There is a concerning recruitment issue for GPs in my constituency, Eastleigh, which has led to patients experiencing significant delays in getting non-urgent appointments. Will my right hon. Friend look into promoting more agile working structures for GPs, especially women? This was highlighted by my CCG on Friday as vital for recruiting and retaining the extra GPs we need.

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I know that West Hampshire CCG is providing extra space and capacity to take on more trainees, and across the country we plan to have 5,000 more doctors working in general practice by the end of this Parliament. This will be the biggest increase in GPs in the history of the NHS. It builds on the extra 1,700 GPs we have working in the NHS since 2010. It does take too long to get to see a GP. We are committed to sorting that out, and the record investment in the NHS five year forward view will make that possible.

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Wyken medical centre in my constituency is due to close in March. This will leave more than 2,000 of my constituents needing to find a new GP, at a time when it is practically impossible to get a prompt GP appointment, never mind register at a new GP surgery. Can the Secretary of State therefore assure me that he will co-ordinate with NHS England to ensure that it manages the situation appropriately and does all it can to assist each of my constituents affected, particularly the vulnerable and elderly, to get access to a new GP as soon as possible?

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I am happy to do that. The hon. Lady is right to make those points. It is to care for the vulnerable people with long-term conditions that we need to see the biggest support given to GPs, because strengthening their ability to look after people proactively will mean that those people are kept out of hospital and kept healthier, and costs are kept down for the NHS.

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In Rochester, we are facing the closure of two single-handed GP practices owing to a retirement and a suspension, with no long-term replacements, making it more difficult for our growing population to access these vital services. Will my right hon. Friend outline the steps he is taking to maintain appropriate access to local GPs?

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I am absolutely prepared to do that and I have met a number of GPs in my hon. Friend’s area. We are reversing the historic underfunding for general practice, with an increase of more than 4% a year in funding for primary care and general practice for the rest of this Parliament. That will give hope to the profession, whose members are vital to the NHS.

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Northern Ireland has the lowest number of GPs per capita across the United Kingdom. In order to access GPs, we need to have GPs. In the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 25% of GPs are aged over 55, and that is going to get worse. What steps have been taken to train more GPs and to ensure that they stay in the NHS and do not go overseas, where there are better wages and conditions?

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We have plans, as I mentioned, to have 5,000 more doctors working in general practice, and there is a big interviewing process. We need to increase the number of GPs going into general practice by 3,250 every year and I am happy to liaise with the Province to see how we can work together on these plans.

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I call next the medal-wearing member of the team which won the parliamentary pancake race this morning, against the peers and against the press.

Care Outside Hospitals

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7. What progress the Government has made on integrating and improving care provided outside of hospitals. [903540]

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16. What progress the Government has made on integrating and improving care provided outside of hospitals. [903549]

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I join you, Mr Speaker, in offering the Government’s congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) on her extraordinary success.

Tackling the long neglected integration of health and social care is a major priority for this Government. It is crucial to avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, providing better care outcomes for the elderly and easing the pressure on our health economy from an ageing population. That is why we have set up the better care fund, providing funding of £3.9 billion—£5.3 billion if we include local funding; why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced the social care precept, which will raise £2 billion; and why we have fully funded the NHS five year forward view integrated care pioneers and new models of care in 95 sites. That is more than Labour promised or ever did in its term of office.

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Thank you for calling me, Mr. Speaker. I must mention the team ably led by the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) and of course the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes).

In areas with a high proportion of older residents, home aids and adaptations can help people live longer in their homes, which benefits them and can also help to ease pressure on the NHS and social care services. What steps are the Government taking to boost such support?

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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The disabled facilities grant is our primary mechanism for supporting the most vulnerable patients. It is currently £222 million, and I am delighted my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced it will increase to £500 million by 2019-20. That will fund 85,000 adaptations and help to prevent 8,500 unnecessary hospital admissions.

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A recent study carried out by the Care Quality Commission found that there had been no notable improvement in mental health services outside hospitals. What steps are being taken to rectify that?

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My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is right that the crisis resolution and home treatment teams were criticised in the recent CQC report for not providing adequate home treatment. That is why the Prime Minister announced in January that we are providing an extra £400 million in funding for those teams. It is also why, in the mandate, we recently required that NHS England not only agree but implement a plan to improve crisis treatment in all areas.

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Does the Minister now accept that the Government’s decision to slash funding to local authorities was disastrous for adult social care, as the Government were warned at the time it would be? Does he also accept that the social care precept, which the Government are allowing councils to levy, will raise the most money in those councils with the highest council tax base, not necessarily in those with the greatest need?

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I would be concerned if that were true. The point is that we are facing extraordinary, exploding demand in our system. At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python sketch, what have the Government done, apart from launching the £3.9 billion better care fund and a £2 billion social care precept; fully funding the NHS five year forward view, with a front load of £3.5 billion; driving health devolution; and providing £4 billion for health technology? We are funding the integration of health and care in a way the last Labour Government never did.

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That is really not true. Ministers are presiding over the hollowing out of social care, because their funding falls far short of what is needed. Some £4.6 billion has already been cut from adult social care, and the funding gap is growing at £700 million a year. The social care precept the Minister has just been talking about will raise £400 million a year, and the better care fund does not start until next year, when it starts at £105 million. Simon Stevens has called this “unresolved business”. When will Ministers face up to the fact that the Government’s figures just do not add up?

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I think that that question could be taken more seriously, first, if the Labour party had tackled this issue in office and, secondly, if it had any suggestions. Let me summarise the pressure the system is under. Over the next 10 years, there will be a 22% increase in over-65s, and the number of people aged over 75 will rise by 90% in the next 20 years. We face extraordinary challenges. That is why we have announced the better care fund increases, why we have launched the social care precept and why we are driving devolution powers for local areas, which allow local health and care leaders to integrate. If this was as easy as Labour Members say, perhaps they would have done these things during their term in office.

Hospital Treatment: Patient Choice

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8. What proportion of patients exercised their right to choose where to receive hospital treatment in each of the last three years. [903541]

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The NHS choice survey, which has been carried out in its current form for the past two years, shows that the proportion of patients who said that they recalled being offered a choice of hospital or clinic for their first appointment was at 40% in 2015, up from 38% in 2014.

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What the Minister just left out from his answer is that the figure was 50% when Labour left power in 2010. How does he explain this worrying fall in the proportion of patients being given a choice on the Conservatives’ watch? Will he reaffirm that choice is a legal right under the NHS constitution? Will he acknowledge that the introduction of choice by the Labour Government has been a major driver in improving NHS performance across the piece?

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The fact the right hon. Gentleman missed out was that that was a different survey, so the figures are not comparable. However, I agree that choice is important. We are still not doing enough, and we should do more. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the team at his local hospital, which has just been rated good by the CQC—the first hospital in the south-west to receive that rating.

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Patients needing mental health services do not get to choose where they receive their care, as highlighted in the Commission on Acute Adult Psychiatric Care report, which was published today. The report says

“the whole system has suffered from a steady attrition in funding…in recent years.”

It highlights

“poor quality of care, inadequate staffing and low morale.”

It describes the situation as “potentially dangerous”. Does the Minister now accept that the Government have let vulnerable people down? Will he implement the commission’s recommendations in full to put this serious situation right?

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We have just received the report. It is a good report; we have taken note of it; and NHS England is already working on its recommendations. I remind the hon. Lady that this Government have put mental health on equal parity of esteem within the NHS constitution for the first time. [Interruption.] Opposition Front Benchers say that is meaningless, but why did they not do it when they were in office? We have done it for the first time and we are acting on it, not just in the constitution but in funding for the NHS, which is going up in real terms in the course of this spending review.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group

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10. What progress his Department has made on reviews investigating the end of the contract between Cambridgeshire and Peterborough clinical commissioning group and UnitingCare Partnership. [903543]

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The CCG expects to publish its internal review by the end of February, and NHS England’s independent review is expected to be completed by the middle of the month. Monitor is assessing the project from the providers’ perspective and will share its findings with NHS England in due course.

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The UnitingCare contract in Cambridgeshire was an attempt to join up unintegrated services. We now appear to be having a series of unintegrated reviews. What is actually needed is a single overarching review that looks at the roles of NHS England, Monitor, the strategic projects team, and, of course, Ministers. When are we going to get that review?

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As I said, there are ongoing reviews concerning the precise responsibilities of each individual part. There is no doubt that this is a very serious matter—a serious failure—that raises series concerns. We want to know what went on as much as the hon. Gentleman does, so once the reviews have been completed and we have been briefed, I will be very happy to talk to him about their consequences.

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I call the victorious team leader, Mr Stephen Pound.

Community Pharmacies

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11. What assessment he has made of the potential effects on public health of his Department’s proposals on the future of community pharmacies. [903544]

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It is my considerable honour, Mr Speaker, to respond to the hon. Gentleman in his victorious mode.

Community pharmacy is a vital part of the NHS and it plays a pivotal role in improving the public’s health in the community. We want a high-quality community pharmacy service that is properly integrated into primary care and public health. The proposed changes will help us, in conjunction with the pharmacy profession, to do just that.

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I am very grateful to the Minister for that answer. There is always a place for him in our team next year, although we are running trials in the next few weeks.

Despite the generosity of the Minister’s response, does he not accept that community pharmacies are of great and growing importance to our constituents and provide an ever-increasing range of healthcare and advice in accessible high street locations? What message does he have for these dedicated professionals, who, frankly, now fear for the future due to the uncertainty arising from the announcement of a 6% cut in funding for the NHS pharmacy service?

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman not only for his question but for the way he put it. The message is that community pharmacy does, and is doing, an extraordinary and important job, but it will change. In 2013, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society said in its publication, “Now or Never: Shaping pharmacy for the future”:

“The traditional model of community pharmacy will be challenged”

due to

“economic austerity in the NHS , a crowded market of local pharmacies, increasing use of technicians and automated technology to undertake dispensing, and the use of online and e-prescribing”.

It pointed to the massive potential of community pharmacists to do more and sees pharmacy as ideally placed

“to play a crucial role in new models of…care.”

All that is to come. We are negotiating with the pharmaceutical profession. A consultation is going on. There is a great future for pharmacy, but, like so much else, it will be different.

Antimicrobial Resistance

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13. What progress his Department has made on making the UK a world leader in tackling antimicrobial resistance. [903546]

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The UK continues to play a global leadership role on antimicrobial resistance. We co-sponsored the World Health Organisation’s 2015 global action plan on AMR, created the Fleming fund to help poorer countries tackle drug resistance, and are promoting action through the G7. The O’Neill AMR review is galvanising global awareness.

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Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest global challenges for public health, making routine operations impossible within 10 or 15 years unless action is taken. I welcome the Government’s action on this. Antibiotic Research UK is the world’s first charitable organisation, set up in my constituency, to tackle this issue. Will the Minister look at how we might fund such organisations in the charitable sector?

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I very much welcome the fact that my hon. Friend is becoming a real champion of this important international and national agenda. I am aware of the important work of the charity he mentions, and I believe it has already had some contact with the Department. I do not make the decisions on these sorts of funding issues, but I am happy to look at the issue he mentions and to meet him to discuss it.

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UK health and medical research projects benefit hugely from European Union funding, with the UK at the top of the table for approved grants. That funding is vital if we are to tackle global health challenges such as resistance to antibiotics. Does the Minister accept that pulling Britain out of the EU may have a detrimental impact on the UK’s role as a world leader in health research and development?

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I reassure the House that the vital funds mentioned by the hon. Lady are protected in the spending review.

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Last but not least, Sir Simon Burns.

GP Practices: Chelmsford

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14. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of provision of GP practices in Chelmsford constituency. [903547]

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NHS England advises that in Chelmsford there is a GP to patient ratio of 1,927 patients per whole-time equivalent GP, which is slightly lower than that for the Mid Essex clinical commissioning group area. The Care Quality Commission has inspected eight of the 13 Chelmsford GP practices—seven were rated “good” overall and one, Sutherland Lodge, was rated “outstanding”.

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Does the Minister think it would be possible for the NHS review of the personal medical services scheme to ensure that the good and innovative work promoted by PMS, as exemplified by Sutherland Lodge surgery, can be sustained?

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I hope so. I appreciate my right hon. Friend’s visit to my office yesterday with members of that surgery and NHS representatives. The £1.4 million released from PMS in Essex will be reinvested in the CCG area, but it is important that there is an opportunity for all practices to bid for that money so that some of the work already done under PMS gets the chance, if it is vital and still needed, to continue, which certainly includes services that are rated “outstanding”.

Topical Questions

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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [903559]

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Significant progress has been made in our negotiations with the British Medical Association on a new contract for junior doctors, but agreement has not been reached on the issue of Saturday pay, despite previous assurances from the BMA that it would negotiate on that point. So, regrettably, 2,884 operations have been cancelled ahead of tomorrow’s industrial action, which will affect all non-emergency services. I urge the BMA to put the interests of patients first and to reconsider its refusal to negotiate.

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At Prime Minister’s questions in February 2014, I raised with the Prime Minister my very serious concerns about the dangerous bullying culture at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust. I understand that the Capsticks inquiry into parts of that is now complete, so will the Secretary of State, in the spirit of honouring his stated commitment to openness and transparency, ensure that that report is made available, perhaps via the NHS Trust Development Authority, if necessary, to the public trust board on 23 February?

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I will happily look into that matter. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), has held a round table on bullying and harassment. I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue, because over the past decade—none of us should be proud of this—the number of NHS staff who say they are suffering from bullying and harassment has gone up from 14% to 22%. If we are going to deliver safer care, we have to make it easier for doctors and nurses on the frontline to speak out without worrying about being bullied or harassed.

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Order. As in the health service, so at Health questions: demand always exceeds supply, so we need short questions and short answers.

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T4. I am sure Ministers will join me in congratulating Number 18 surgery in Bath on being ranked in the top 10 GP practices in the country. Do they agree that patients having a choice of where they are treated will increase patient satisfaction in the NHS? [903563]

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Yes, it certainly will. That is another reason why we hope to have 5,000 more doctors and 5,000 more allied health professionals working in general practice, to expand the primary care service by 2020.

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Today’s The Independent reports that a potential deal on the junior doctor contract was put to the Government that would have resolved junior doctors’ concerns without costing any more money and potentially avoided tomorrow’s industrial action. A source close to the negotiations told the newspaper:

“The one person who would not agree was Jeremy Hunt. Even though the NHS Employers and DH teams thought this was a solution he said no”.

So let me ask the Health Secretary a very direct question: have the Government at any point rejected a cost-neutral proposal from the BMA on the junior doctor contract—yes or no?

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The only reason we do not have a solution on the junior doctors is the BMA saying in December that it would negotiate on the one outstanding issue—pay on Saturdays—but last month refusing to negotiate. If the BMA is prepared to negotiate and be flexible on that, so are we. It is noticeable that despite 3,000 cancelled operations, no one in the Labour party is condemning the strikes.

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T6. Will my right hon. Friend update us on the progress in decriminalising dispensing errors for pharmacists? [903565]

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I am aware of my hon. Friend’s keen interest in the rebalancing programme of work, and particularly the work on dispensing errors. We are fully committed to making that change. There are a number of stages to amending primary legislation through a section 60 order. Given the timetable, it is likely that the order will be laid before the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments in the autumn.

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T2. The Secretary of State will be aware that Maximus is recruiting junior doctors to perform work capability assessments in the Department for Work and Pensions. The company is offering £72,000 a year, which is up to twice the salary that junior doctors would get in the health service. Is he concerned that that will result in inexperienced medical staff making judgments that relate to people’s livelihoods? Is he not also concerned that it will result in a drain of staff resources out of the NHS and out of providing general healthcare for the public? [903560]

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As a result of the changes the Government have made on welfare reform, we have 2 million more people in work and nearly 500,000 fewer children growing up in households where nobody works. Part of that is making important reforms, including having independent medical assessments of people who are in the benefit system. I think everyone should welcome that.

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T8. Comparative research has shown that proton therapy is as effective as radiotherapy for certain cancers, but has fewer side effects. Do Her Majesty’s Government accept the use of comparative evidence in deciding the availability on the NHS of emerging treatments such as proton therapy? [903567]

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I will reflect on the wider point my hon. Friend makes, but the House will be keen to know that we are investing in building two proton beam therapy facilities at the Christie in Manchester and University College London hospitals. Work has already started on that £250 million project, and the first facility is due to become operational in 2018.

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T3. Will the Secretary of State provide an update on efforts and contingencies to combat the Zika virus, and on how that is being co-ordinated with the devolved Administrations, including Scotland? [903561]

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The Government are taking the matter extremely seriously, and they have it under active review. Up-to-date medical guidance has been cascaded to the NHS in England. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the UK is at the forefront of some of the world’s response. We are a major funder of the World Health Organisation. We have got people on the ground helping in Brazil, in particular. I assure him that we are maintaining close links with the devolved Administrations at official level, and I am always happy to speak to colleagues. We take very seriously keeping those links live.

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T9. Has the Secretary of State seen the comments of Professor Angus Dalgleish, who is widely reported in the papers today as suggesting that EU rules are forcing us to spend billions of pounds treating health tourists and preventing us from undertaking important clinical trials? Has the Secretary of State made any assessment of Professor Dalgleish’s comments? [903568]

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The Government have made a huge and significant assessment of the cost of overseas people using the NHS, and we think that there are £500 million of recoverable costs that we do not currently recover. When it comes to the EU, the biggest problem that we have is that we are able to reclaim the costs of people temporarily visiting the UK, but we do not do so as much as we should because the systems in hospitals are not as efficient as they need to be. We are sorting that out.

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T5. Despite the prevalence of pancakes in Parliament today, I am pleased to be asking a food-related question. A recent opinion poll performed by Diabetes UK showed that three quarters of British adults think food and drink manufacturers should reduce the amount of saturated fat, salt and sugar in their products. Does the Minister support introducing mandatory targets for industry to reformulate food and drink products to help people to eat more healthily, and will that form part of the Government’s childhood obesity strategy? [903564]

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We made considerable progress in this area in the last Parliament, under the responsibility deal, but we have always said that there is more to do and the challenge to industry remains. We will say more about that when we publish the childhood obesity strategy in due course.

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Midwife-led units, such as the brilliant Crowborough birthing centre in my constituency of Wealden, are key to the provision of high-quality, safe and compassionate maternity care. Last year, it scored 100% satisfaction on a friends and family survey. Will my hon. Friend outline the Government’s plans for midwife-led care, particularly given this weekend’s launch by The Sunday Times of the safer births campaign?

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Midwife-led units have increased in number in the past few years, to the great advantage of women wanting a full range of choice when they give birth. That is why we are all looking forward to the publication of the Cumberlege review, which I hope will map out the future of maternity services and show what midwife-led units will do within maternity services in the NHS. I am very excited about that, and I know that my hon. Friend will be, too.

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T7. Ministers will be aware of The Lancet series on breastfeeding and the open letter signed today by a range of organisations in the field calling for concerted action to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. Will the Minister meet me and these organisations to discuss the proposals further? [903566]

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I am aware of The Lancet review, which makes some important points. We are not doing well enough yet in England, and it is of note that progress has been made in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that we should be able to copy in England. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), who has responsibility for public health, will want to hold such a meeting to discuss that. We have made considerable progress, but there is still a differential between rich and poor that we need to fix.

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I am pleased to support the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s “It’s Time” campaign, which is an initiative to ensure that children who have been the victims of abuse receive ongoing support. May I seek assurances from the Government that they will actively help with this initiative?

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Yes, indeed. We strongly support the initiative. Our work to look after children who need extra care, particularly in relation to their health and emotional needs, has been helped by the transforming care package, which is going through local authorities at the moment. Their vulnerabilities are certainly a matter of great concern, and that will be followed up by the Government.

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Over 1 million elderly people are able to maintain independence and remain in their own homes due to the attendance allowance. What discussions has the Minister had with his colleagues about ensuring, when the fund is transferred from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Department for Communities and Local Government, that the allowance will remain at the same level?

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The consultation is ongoing between Departments. A unit has been set up by the Department of Health and the DWP to look at a range of issues that concern us both. The actual detail of the future attendance allowance has not been finalised yet, but it is a matter of concern and discussion between Departments.

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In asking a question about mental health, may I remind the House that I am married to an NHS forensic psychiatrist, who is also registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists? Have the Government looked carefully at today’s report from the independent commission on improving mental health services, particularly its finding that provision nationally for the most severely ill acute patients is inadequate? Will the Government set out what measures they will take to make sure we really see progress on parity of esteem and on improving access to such severely ill patients?

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I thank my hon. Friend for her question, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists for its work on Lord Nigel Crisp’s commission, which we have supported. The report and recommendations have only just come to us, but they certainly travel in the direction in which the Government are already going. We want to reduce out-of-area placements. The NHS is already committed to that, and is working on moving to a definitive target to reduce the number of them and, I hope, eventually to scrap them. I was up in Hull last week to look at problems in that particular area. The recommendations on waiting times are very important. As we all know, this area has been undervalued in the past. It is under greater scrutiny, and more investment and support are going in through the Government. Today’s report will help us in relation to that.

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rose—

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I will call the hon. Gentleman if his question consists of one sentence.

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Leeds has a shortage of integrated care beds and pressure on acute services. Will the Secretary of State—[Interruption.] That was a comma, Mr Speaker. Will the Secretary of State please intervene, so that Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust can open wards at Wharfedale hospital, which it wants to do, while the clinical commissioning group provides the money?

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I am very happy to look at that.

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Well done.

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By refusing to condemn the junior doctors strike, the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) has shown that she has little regard for patient safety. [Interruption.] Will my right hon. Friend repeat his condemnation of this strike, which will seriously endanger patient safety, and assure me that he will continue to press for the new contracts, which will guarantee safer patient care and a better contract for doctors?

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I think my hon. Friend got a bit of a reaction with those comments. The Labour party is saying that if a negotiated settlement cannot be reached, we should not impose a new contract—in other words, we should give up on seven-day care for the most vulnerable patients. There was a time when the Labour party spoke up for vulnerable patients. Now it is clear that unions matter more than patients.

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I am sorry, but demand is so high. Last but not least, I call Kevin Barron.

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The 6% cut in the pharmacy budget will come in in October—halfway through the next financial year. Will the Minister tell us what the percentage cut will be in a full financial year?

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Negotiations are ongoing with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. The amounts that have been set out cover this financial year and the settlements are moved on from year to year, so the discussion is ongoing. The future for pharmacy is very good, although it will be different, as the profession has wanted for some time. Not only is there a great future for high-street shops in areas where we need them, but there will be an improvement in and enlargement of pharmacy services in healthcare settings, primary care settings and care homes around the country.

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Apologies to colleagues. I did stretch the envelope as far as I could, but we must move on.