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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 615: debated on Tuesday 11 October 2016


The Secretary of State was asked—

GP Interventions: Physical Activity

1. What steps he has taken to support GPs in prescribing effective interventions to change behaviour and promote physical activity. (906489)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that exercise referral schemes should be provided for people at increased risk of ill health, and it is right that such schemes are developed on a local basis to meet the needs of the population. Our NHS five year forward view strategy prioritises prevention, and the GP physical activity clinical champion programme has taught more than 4,500 healthcare professionals to provide advice on physical activity in routine clinical consultations.

In the north-east, only 33% of adults participate in weekly sport, compared with 38% in London. This has a knock-on effect on people’s health throughout their lives. What are the Government doing to address these geographical health inequalities?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this question. Inactivity costs England an estimated £7.4 billion a year, and regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing many health conditions by between 20% and 40%. People who exercise regularly can reduce their risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. We are particularly pleased that, in addition to the GP physical activity clinical champion programme, Public Health England has secured funding from Sport England to pilot an education cascade model involving midwives, physiotherapists and mental health nurses and, with the support of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, will soon be launching a pilot involving 21 clinical nurse champion programmes to embed this knowledge in practising nurses. It will, however, be up to local areas to ensure that they make the best of these programmes by targeting them at their local area.

On the behaviour part of the question, what can the Minister do to combat what seems to be an emerging picture of over-consumption of painkillers and to enforce NICE guidelines on their use?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue relating to drug and alcohol misuse. We have prioritised this question as one of the local statutory requirements. We have given £16 billion to local health authorities for public health delivery, and we will expect them to prioritise this issue.

Lack of physical activity contributes to obesity. With today’s Health questions falling on World Obesity Day, as I am sure the Minister is aware, it is vital that we recommit our efforts to reversing rising obesity levels in the UK. An opportune moment would have been the childhood obesity strategy—sorry, the plan—that was published over the summer, but sadly it did not go far enough. Therefore, will the Minister commit today to ensuring that the plan is fully realised as a preventive strategy to change behaviours and help to make the next generation healthier than the last?

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her appointment. I am particularly pleased to see her in her place. She has played an important role in the all-party parliamentary group on breast cancer. We are very proud of the childhood obesity plan. It is based on the best available evidence, and it will make a real difference to obesity rates in this country. The Government are also consulting on the soft drinks industry levy, and we have launched a broad sugar reduction strategy. She is absolutely right to say that we must now work hard to ensure that we deliver on that with the NHS, local authorities and other partners as we move into the delivery phase of the plan. We are proud that it is a world-leading plan.

Health and Social Care: Plymouth

2. If he will visit Plymouth to discuss how its city council has pooled health and social care budgets. (906490)

Plymouth has gone further and faster in integrating health and social care than many parts of the country have done. The integrated fund that it has set up covers housing and leisure as well as health and care. I would be delighted to visit Plymouth and to learn more about how the fund is working in practice.

As my hon. Friend points out, Plymouth has taken innovative steps to try to address some of the funding inequalities at play within the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon clinical commissioning group. However, between the calculated spend and the actual spend, there is a funding shortfall of £30 million. Will he agree to work with local MPs, stakeholders and those involved in the wider Devon sustainability and transformation plan to develop a written agreement to address these inequalities?

My hon. Friend refers to the time lag that can exist between target and actual funding. When I visit, I will be delighted to meet stakeholders not only to understand the allocation issues to which he refers but to congratulate the health and social care leadership on the progress they have made with their fund and on the above-average satisfaction ratings that have been achieved in Plymouth.

12. When the Minister is in Devon, will he meet patients’ groups and NHS staff, who are very worried about the proposals under the Government’s Orwellian Success regime, which include the closure of scores of community hospital beds, including the only community hospital beds in Exeter at Whipton hospital? Although it may make sense to integrate, and it certainly makes sense to move money from beds and buildings to better care for people in their homes, does he accept that it is simply not deliverable against a backdrop of massive cuts in social care budgets? (906501)

Yes, I am happy to meet in that context. The right hon. Gentleman is right that the Success regime is about a transfer of resources from the community hospitals to care at home and domiciliary care. That is not necessarily the wrong thing to do, but it must be done right, and I am happy to meet.

I welcome greater integration, but the Minister will be aware that there are grave concerns about the effect of cuts to social care on the NHS. More and more patients are spending greater time in more expensive settings in hospital when they could be better looked after in their own homes or in the community, but cuts to social care make that impossible. Will the Minister set out what appraisal the Government are making of the effect and the damage to the NHS of cuts to social care?

My hon. Friend is right: social care funding is tight. It is also true to say that those parts of the country that do the best in this regard—there are some that do considerably better than others—have integrated social care and health most effectively. On the budget itself, there is some disparity among different local authorities. About a quarter of local authorities have increased their adult social care budget by 5% or more this year.

Alcohol Consumption Guidelines

3. If he will publish the full scientific evidential basis for his Department’s alcohol consumption guidelines; and what representations he has received on those guidelines. (906491)

The scientific evidence for the UK chief medical officer’s low-risk alcohol guidelines is available on the website. The guidelines were published in August, following testing through public consultation to ensure that the advice is as clear and usable as possible. We received 1,019 responses to the consultation.

There is an overwhelming scientific evidence base that shows the health benefits of moderate drinking—something to which I can attest. Does the Minister not agree that the chief medical officer should highlight those benefits more?

For many people, drinking alcohol is part of their normal social lives, and we are perfectly clear that these guidelines are advisory. They are in place to help people make informed decisions about how they drink and decide whether they want to take fewer risks with their drinking. They are not designed to label everyone who drinks as a problem drinker or to prevent everyone who wants to drink from drinking, but I point out to the hon. Gentleman that Rochdale has more than double the number of admissions to hospital where alcohol is a factor than the best authorities in England.

Following on from that answer, will the Minister reassure the House that public health guidance given to consumers of alcohol is realistic and will not undermine responsible drinking campaigns, penalise responsible drinkers or damage the vital role that pubs play in our communities?

As I have said, these guidelines are simply intended to be advisory. They are intended to give the best possible information and advice and to put all the evidence in one place so that people can make the best possible decisions with their drinking.

Campaigners on alcohol abuse have acknowledged the importance of the pub, which is a controlled sociable environment in which to enjoy a drink compared with the unrestricted supermarkets. Will the Minister have a word with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government who continue to preside over a system in which profitable wanted pubs are demolished and in which supermarkets are built on the site against the wishes of local communities?

The hon. Gentleman plays a very important role as chair of the all-party save the pub group and has been a dogged campaigner for the pub. We are very clear that social drinking is not the target of these low-risk guidelines. I am happy to meet and discuss this issue with my DCLG colleagues.

Sadly, very few people are aware of the link between alcohol consumption and obesity and of the long-term impacts of life-limiting diseases—not just cirrhosis. To ensure that the impact of obesity is integral to the alcohol consumption guidelines, will the Minister, on World Obesity Day, put tackling both adult and childhood obesity even higher up the Department’s agenda?

The hon. Lady is right to raise the hidden risks of alcohol consumption, which is exactly why a widespread analysis of the evidence was conducted through this guideline exercise. She is right to say that obesity should be a top priority for the Government. We will analyse her question and look into it.

PFI Health Projects

4. What estimate he has made of the value of assets funded by PFI health projects which will remain in private ownership after the contracts for those projects have concluded. (906492)

Between 1997 and 2010, 103 NHS hospital PFI schemes reached financial close, creating liabilities for the NHS of £77 billion. Three legacy PFI schemes have been signed since 2010 on stricter terms, with liabilities of £1.7 billion, and one scheme has been signed under the new PF2 model, worth £340 million. In nearly all cases, except for a few of the early schemes, ownership of the hospital reverts to the NHS at the end of the PFI contract. But even in those schemes, the NHS always has the first option on whether to end or continue with the contract.

Effectively, those figures will mean even more debt for the next generation. Will the Minister commit the Government to abandoning all PFI? It always was an idiotic scheme. No more PFI, no more PF2, etc—just abandon it, Minister.

The hon. Gentleman has a consistent track record in opposing PFI, even when the vast majority of the schemes were put under contract by the Government of which he was a member—so I will not take any lectures from him about how to deal with PFI. We will continue to use the new stricter terms as and when appropriate.

The National Audit Office concluded that the PFI contract for the Norfolk and Norwich hospital was a bad deal for the taxpayer and for the NHS, yet last year Octagon Healthcare made a record profit as the Norfolk and Norwich’s finances sank ever further into the red. Will the Minister consider making a formal approach to Octagon Healthcare to ask it to forgo part of its profit to help confront the enormous financial black hole that the trust faces?

We have provided access for seven of the worst affected trusts with obligations under PFI to a support fund of some £1.5 billion to help them with those obligations. I am not sure whether Norfolk is one of them; I suspect that it is not. I would be happy to talk to the right hon. Gentleman about this, but rather than raising his hopes inappropriately I have to say to him that many of the schemes are too costly to divert resource to pay them off completely.

Clinical Commissioning Groups: “Five Year Forward View”

5. If he will take steps to ensure that clinical commissioning groups publish their proposals for implementing the NHS “Five Year Forward View”. (906493)

The “Five Year Forward View” will be delivered through sustainability and transformation plans which are currently being developed by clinical commissioning groups in collaboration with local authorities and providers. NHS England expects that all STPs will be published, although in some areas discussions are already taking place.

I am led to understand that in Wycombe we should expect no dramatic changes and possibly no publication of a strategic plan. Does my hon. Friend agree that public confidence would be much enhanced by the clear articulation in public of a strategy for meeting the “Five Year Forward View”?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I will try to give a clear answer. NHS England is determined that all 44 areas will publish their plans shortly. For those that have not already done so, publication will take place after the formal checkpoint review at the end of October. Areas are working to different timescales, but the plans will all be published by the end of November. For the avoidance of doubt, that includes the STP for Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West.

The NHS “Five Year Forward View” called for a radical upgrade in prevention and public health. How does the Minister square that with the Government’s subsequent cuts to public health, including £200 million in-year cuts and further cuts expected by 2020?

The STP process is an attempt to upgrade our public health and mental health provision and cancer outcomes. Every STP will be expected to provide an assessment of local public health priorities and the timetable for progress towards that.

Wantage community hospital in my constituency has recently closed because of the threat of Legionnaires’ disease, and it will not reopen until we have finally concluded consultation on the sustainability and transformation plan—if it reopens at all. This consultation has been delayed, and that naturally worries my constituents. Will the Minister join me in urging Oxfordshire to get on with consulting on this very important plan, so that we can have a reasonable discussion?

I will join my right hon. Friend in doing that. I am not familiar with the specifics of the Wantage case, but it does not sound right that it is an ongoing thing that is not fixed quickly.

May I congratulate the Minister on his appointment to the Front Bench, as well as the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), on hers? I am sure that they will do a terrific job in their posts.

As a type 2 diabetic, I am very concerned about the fact that local clinical commissioning groups are just not providing information on preventive work against diabetes. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that diabetes will be referred to once these plans have been published?

I will confirm that. There is a national diabetes plan, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware. Diabetes is one of a number of long-term conditions in which these plans are charged to deliver improvements, and it would not be acceptable for a plan to be signed off or completed unless progress on diabetes had been made.

When the Minister looks at new treatment options in the forward view, will he consider the example of Velindre NHS Trust in south-east Wales, which treats 1.5 million cancer patients every year and is now using reflexology, reiki healing, aromatherapy, and breathing and relaxation techniques to alleviate anxiety, pain, side effects and symptoms? If that was more widely spread over the health service in England, cost savings and patient satisfaction would increase.

The STP process is locally led, not led from the centre, but I would expect clinical judgments of the type mentioned to be made if they could be confirmed on the basis of scientific and trial-based evidence.

Central to the aim of the five year forward plan for the NHS is a sustainable health service in which all patients receive the right care at the right time in the right place. With that in mind, can the Minister tell me what action he is taking to address the problem of delayed hospital discharges, which have risen by 20% so far this year? That amounts to an additional 926 people every day condemned to stay in hospital longer than is medically necessary.

First, may I welcome the hon. Lady to her post and wish her luck in the new job? There has been an increase in delayed discharges in England over the past year. Only a part of that increase is due to difficulties in the integration between social care and the NHS—a large part of it comes from within the NHS itself—but it is not uniform across local authorities. Indeed, many local authorities are improving in this regard. What is very clear is that those making the most progress the most quickly are those that have gone furthest in integrating social care and healthcare.

Lyme Disease

6. What the timetable is for the review of the diagnosis, treatment and transmission of Lyme disease announced on 10 May 2016. (906494)

The Department of Health has commissioned three separate reviews on the diagnosis, treatment and transmission of Lyme disease. The work will be carried out by the epicentre of University College and be clinically driven and evidence-based, and it will be published in late 2017.

Although I am delighted that the Government are looking into this serious and important disease, as the reviews progress thousands of people contract Lyme disease each year, particularly in areas such as Wiltshire, and they can receive inadequate treatment, so will the Minister look into speeding up these reviews?

It is fair challenge that this work is high priority, and we need to go as fast as possible, but we are working with research teams. The work will be trial-based and needs to be as definitive as possible. In the meantime, early diagnosis is the key way to make progress. Public Health England continues to work with GPs and the public on it.

My mother recently died of motor neurone disease. In some areas of my constituency, there are 13 sufferers per 10,000 people, whereas the UK average is two per 100,000. Will the Minister please agree to meet me and representatives of the Motor Neurone Disease Association to discuss how the UK Government could lend their weight to combating this awful and debilitating disease?

Bearing in mind that cases of Lyme disease have quadrupled in the past 12 years, and that some of those cases have been in my constituency of Strangford in Northern Ireland, what has been done with the devolved Assemblies in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to ensure that a UK-wide strategy is put in place to address this trend and to provide effective diagnosis and treatment?

The principal thing that we need to do with Lyme disease is to make progress on diagnosis, treatment and transmission through a definitive approach. When the results of the study that I mentioned are published, of course they will be available across all parts of the United Kingdom.

NHS Procurement

I agree with my hon. Friend that this is an important area. In his report earlier this year, Lord Carter identified potential annual savings of £700 million from reducing the variation in procurement performance between providers. We have announced a first tranche of 12 standardised products for all NHS providers to use; this will boost procurement volumes and bring about economies of scale, securing lower prices. These initial products, including commodity items such as gloves and needles, cover £100 million of trust spending. We expect this to result in savings of up to 25%.

Innovative private sector suppliers have successfully partnered with the NHS since its inception, and it is quite right to say that for that relationship to be sustainable, those suppliers must make a profit. However, does the Minister agree that rogue companies that exploit the NHS’s lack of commercial expertise could be named and shamed, because they are making a lot of money at taxpayers’ expense?

We believe that the right approach to securing procurement savings is to take advantage of the immense amount of data available across the NHS. That is why we have set up the purchasing price index benchmarking tool. Data on more than £8 billion of expenditure, covering over 30 million separate procurement transactions, has been collated and will be analysed. We will use that information judiciously to save the taxpayer money. We think that that is the right way to start, rather than naming and shaming.

I urge the Minister, when thinking about national procurement and national commissioning, to look at the national strategies that can underpin them—for example, at why we need to renew the national stroke strategy. Some 100,000 people a year suffer a stroke, and nearly 1 million people in this country have had a stroke. They care very much about rehabilitation and other services.

The Minister’s challenge is to relate that very important matter to the equally important issue that happens to be the subject of the question: procurement.

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for drawing the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the fact that the topic is procurement. The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the fact that we have looked at an acute heart treatment strategy. We are creating centres of excellence across the country to ensure that if people suffer from an acute heart incident or a stroke, they are treated by the specialists who will give them the best prospects for recovery.

Hospitals in Special Measures

In the last four years, 29 trusts have been put into special measures; that is more than one in 10 of all NHS trusts. Of those, 12 have now come out, having demonstrated sustainable improvements in safety and quality of care. There are nearly 1,300 more doctors and 4,200 nurses working in trusts that have been put into special measures.

The Secretary of State will be aware because he visited it last year, that the Queen Elizabeth hospital in my constituency has come out of special measures. It has made excellent progress, not least by introducing Saturday lists for in-patients and putting in place numerous measures to transform the out-patients department. Will he join me in paying tribute to all staff of the hospital, particularly the chief executive, Dorothy Hosein, and the chairman, Edward Libbey, for the excellent progress that they have made?

I am very happy to do that, and I very much enjoyed my visit to the QE with my hon. Friend a couple of years ago. This is a very good example of how trusts can be transformed when they go into special measures. Since coming out of special measures, the QE has opened a state-of-the-art laparoscopic theatre, got a dedicated breast unit, and expanded its A&E. It has got 72 more nurses over the past few years. It is a good example to many other trusts in special measures, and it shows that that really can be a turning point, bringing about benefits for patients and staff.

The problem is that many trusts are still in a financial mess and have a deficit. If hospitals and the wider health service are to solve that, they need more funding, and councils, too, need funding for care. What is the Secretary of State doing to fight for more funding for his Department to ensure that we deal with those problems properly?

The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that in last year’s spending review the NHS got the biggest funding increase of any Government Department. We have committed to the NHS’s own plan, which asks for £10 billion more a year during the course of this Parliament in real terms. However, I do not disagree that there are still very real financial pressures in the NHS and particularly in the social care system. The trusts that are delivering the highest standards of care are those with the lowest deficits. Delivering unsafe care is one of the most expensive things people can do, which is why this is an important agenda.

15. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating all the staff at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, which has recently been rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission just four years after it was deemed to be a red risk. It is now in the top 25% of trusts. (906505)

The staff at Bolton have done a fantastic job. I absolutely congratulate them, and I thank my hon. Friend for his work in supporting them as well.

The Secretary of State will know that in my own area of Calderdale and Huddersfield there is a dreadful situation for the trust that has been caused by the behaviour of the clinical commissioning group and the way in which it procures. He has received a large petition from thousands of people in the Huddersfield area about the closure of the A&E. Will he look at that seriously and intervene, because the competence of local CCGs is not up to the mark?

I am well aware of that issue and have received a number of representations from hon. Members on both sides of the House. There is a mechanism by which these issues end up on my desk—they have to be referred by a local council’s overview and scrutiny committee and then I get an independent recommendation—but I will look at this carefully if that process is followed.

To cope with rapid population increases in my constituency, Basingstoke has advanced plans to build a critical treatment hospital and cancer centre, with the support of more than three quarters of the population. Does my right hon. Friend expect sustainability and transformation plans to provide clear, timely direction on plans for this new model of care in the community?

I can absolutely reassure my right hon. Friend on that. One of the main purposes of STPs is to make sure that we deliver our cancer plan, which will introduce a maximum four-week wait between GP referral and ultimate diagnosis. If we get it right, that might result in around 30,000 lives a year being saved, so this is a big priority for every STP.

NHS Staff Recruitment and Retention

9. What steps he plans to take to address shortfalls in staff recruitment and retention in the NHS. (906497)

I join the Secretary of State in welcoming the dedication and commitment of everyone who works in the NHS. We are taking active steps to encourage more people to become doctors, nurses and support staff. Only last week, my right hon. Friend announced a commitment to recruit an additional 25% of doctors to train in the NHS, which is 1,500 more doctors on top of the 6,000 currently trained every year.

Net temporary and agency staff expenditure has risen by 40% since 2013. It accounted for 8% of total staff expenditure in 2015-16, which equates to £4.13 billion. Does the Minister agree that rising agency costs point to a recruitment crisis, and will he make a statement to the House outlining his plans to address that crisis?

We recognise, absolutely, that bills for agency staff have become unsustainable, which is why we have taken deliberate action, including by introducing price caps on hourly rates last November, which has had a significant impact on reducing agency costs. In the year to date, agency costs are some £550 million less than they were last year.

I welcome last week’s announcement about the increase in the number of medical school places. What plans does the Department have to ensure that there are sufficient clinical training places for those medical students?

I can reassure my hon. Friend that there is considerable excess demand from UK-based students to train to become a clinician in this country—only half of those who apply to train in medical school are accepted at present—so we are confident that there will be plenty of take-up for those extra places. With regard to clinical placements, we are in discussions with universities, colleges and teaching hospitals to ensure that there are adequate numbers of places.

I welcome the 25% expansion in medical student places, but I reject tying that to the elimination of 25% of overseas doctors who currently work in our NHS. With 10% of posts unfilled and ever-rising patient demand, the Secretary of State must know that we will always need international graduates in the future. Does he not recognise that he is creating unrealistic expectations and conflict with this idea of a British-only medical service?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to set the record straight and stop this scaremongering, which is undoubtedly unsettling many of the very valuable doctors, nurses and other foreign nationals who are currently providing vital services to the NHS. Last week’s announcement was about adding more doctors to be trained who are UK-based. We are not changing any of the present arrangements for international students being trained here, or doctors and nurses working here.

The Government might not be changing their position right now, but with one in 10 posts currently unfilled, and given the rhetoric used last week, how does the Minister expect us even to retain foreign doctors, let alone attract them to fill those posts?

There was no rhetoric used. In making that announcement, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used no rhetoric whatsoever regarding the very valuable contribution of foreign clinicians to our health service, and that remains the case.

Staff shortages this summer led United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust to introduce a temporary closure of Grantham A&E, causing huge concern to my constituents. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me and Jody Clark, the founder of a local campaign group, to discuss how we can resolve this unacceptable situation?

I am well aware, from representations made by my hon. Friend and other neighbouring MPs, of the concerns that that has caused locally. The Secretary of State has already indicated to me that he does intend to meet my hon. Friend and campaigners in due course.

The Minister says that no rhetoric or scaremongering was used last week. Can he explain to the House what the Prime Minister meant when she said:

“there will be staff here from overseas in the interim period until the further numbers of British doctors are trained and come on board in terms of being able to work in our hospitals”?

What did that mean? What should we expect next—ambulances plastered with “Go home” slogans?

That is exactly the kind of ill-judged remark I have been talking about, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has used it in his first appearance in his new post. By the way, I congratulate him on that new post, but I very much hope that he will use more measured language in the future, rather than spreading that kind of inappropriate rumour. The interim period referred to is the period during which doctors will be trained. We will not get new doctors coming in under the increased allocation until 2023, and during that time we will clearly need to use all measures to ensure that we fill the spaces that I acknowledge we have across several of our hospitals.

I appreciate the Minister’s warm welcome, and I can tell him that I am very much looking forward to shadowing the Secretary of State, but his comments on ill-judged remarks should be directed at the Prime Minister, not me. We have seen 8,000 fewer nurses, student nurse bursaries are set to be cut, there is a reliance on agency staff and a failure to train enough doctors, and now, after six years in office, the Government are talking about self-sufficiency. Given the concerns that these plans do not go far enough, will the Minister tell us what steps he will take to ensure that no staff from the EU lose their jobs, and will the NHS still be able to recruit from the EU if necessary post Brexit?

Health Ministers have been very clear about reassuring all the 53,000 EU citizens working in our NHS that their roles are secure. Regarding clinicians, I remind the hon. Gentleman that, although we have some vacancy rates, which are acknowledged, we now have 7,800 more consultants employed in the NHS than in May 2010, 8,500 more doctors than in May 2010, and over 10,500 more nurses working on our wards. We have gone through a very consistent policy of recruiting more people to work in the NHS under this Government.

Cancer Diagnosis

10. What steps his Department is taking to model the potential cost savings to the NHS budget of earlier diagnosis of cancers. (906498)

The independent cancer taskforce highlighted the report “Saving lives, averting costs”, which identified cost savings resulting from earlier diagnosis, in particular for colon, rectal and ovary cancers. We have committed to a further £300 million for earlier diagnosis, one major product of which will be the 28-day diagnosis standard to which the Secretary of State referred earlier.

In welcoming the Minister to his post, may I highlight evidence to show that early diagnosis, in addition to making for better survival rates, offers substantial cost savings? Colon cancer costs £3,000 per patient per year to treat at stage 1, compared with over £12,000 if it is diagnosed and treated at stage 4. We have a shortage of health economists in the NHS, so will the Minister go further and actually commission a study to look at this issue on behalf of the taxpayer, because it requires further detail?

We agree that early diagnosis saves lives and can lead to cost savings. Just as an example, we know that GP referrals are up by 91% since 2010—an additional 800,000 people are getting early diagnosis—and we are beginning to see the results of that coming through in the one-year survival figures. On my hon. Friend’s specific point about further study, Public Health England and Macmillan have commissioned recent studies on modelling, one part of which will be on the cost impact of earlier diagnosis, and we look forward to seeing the results of those studies.

GPs play a central role in the early diagnosis of cancer. In the 1990s, Sunderland was one of the most under-resourced areas in England in terms of the GP workforce, and we now face a similar and growing problem, even though action was taken then. Will the Minister set out how he intends to make sure not only that we train more family doctors, but that they are encouraged to work in areas where there is an acute shortage?

We are training 3,250 extra GPs every year, and we have a target of 5,000 additional doctors working in general practice by 2020. However, as well as new GPs, we must do much better with retention. That means keeping the GP population that we have, and there are a number of steps that the Government are taking to do that. On the specific point about Sunderland, there is a bursary scheme that is aimed at attracting GPs to areas where they may not necessarily have wished to work previously.

NHS Efficiency Savings

11. What estimate his Department has made of the amount accrued to the public purse from efficiency savings in the NHS since May 2010. (906500)

In 2010 a target was set by NHS leaders to make £20 billion of efficiency savings by 2015 in order to make more funds available for treating patients and to allow the NHS to respond to changing demand and new technology. Under my right hon. Friend’s inspirational leadership as a Health Minister, the NHS broadly delivered on this original challenge, reporting savings of £19.4 billion over this period. All these savings have been reinvested into front-line NHS services.

As Members would imagine, I warmly welcome that answer from the Minister. Would he confirm that those savings were achieved through greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of care and by cutting waste in the NHS that occurred between 2002 and 2007? Can he confirm that the benefit of that achievement to the NHS is that not a single penny of those savings goes to the Treasury, but is reinvested in the NHS and front-line services?

My right hon. Friend managed to include several questions in his impressive supplementary. I can confirm that much of the waste that took place in the years he cited—2002 to 2007—related to projects of the previous Labour Government that they themselves then cancelled, such as the IT project. I can also confirm that savings generated in the NHS are kept in the NHS. Lord Carter, whose report I referred to earlier, has identified £5 billion of efficiency savings, which we hope to deliver during this Parliament.

There is a distinction to be drawn between realistic efficiency targets and systematic underfunding. Only last month, Simon Stevens told the Public Accounts Committee that for three of the next five years

“we did not get what we originally asked for”.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, also said last month that

“we’ve got a huge gap coming… it’s the chairs and chief executives on the front line…who are saying they cannot make this add up any longer.”

On funding, the Government keep saying that the NHS is getting all that it has asked for; those actually running the NHS say something quite different. Who is right?

The hon. Gentleman stood on a manifesto 18 months ago in which his party was not prepared to commit the funding that our party was prepared to commit. Labour committed £5.5 billion to the NHS; we committed £8 billion, and we have delivered £10 billion.

Male Suicide

Tragically, suicide is now the biggest single cause of death in men under 50. There are 13 suicides every day, of which three quarters are men. I am currently reviewing our suicide strategy to make sure we leave no stone unturned in trying to reduce the totally unacceptable level of these tragedies.

Yesterday marked the launch of the mental health awareness and suicide prevention campaign called “It takes balls to talk” across Coventry and Warwickshire. The campaign is a public information programme targeted at male-dominated sporting venues, which aims to direct men to help and support when they need it to promote positive mental health and reduce the incidence of male suicide. With suicide being the single most common cause of death in men under 45, will the Secretary of State take the opportunity to welcome and support this important new campaign?

I am happy to do just that. I would like to thank the hon. Lady for bringing up this very important and difficult issue. We are making progress in reducing suicide rates, but we can do an awful lot better. The thing that troubles me most is that nearly three quarters of people who kill themselves have had no contact with specialist NHS mental health services in the previous year, even though in many cases we actually know who they are because, sadly, most of them have tried before. I am very happy to commend the “It takes balls to talk” campaign. She may want to put the campaign in touch with the national sport mental health charter, which is another scheme designed to use sport to try to boost the psychological wellbeing of men.

A recent survey showed that one in four members of the emergency services experienced mental health problems, and that a number of them experienced suicidal thoughts. What is the Secretary of State doing to protect our vital paramedics and other ambulance staff, and to ensure that they get the support they need in dealing with absolutely appalling situations?

Again, I thank the hon. Lady for raising that. She will be pleased to know that the NHS has introduced a scheme, backed with funding, to encourage NHS trusts to look after the mental wellbeing of their own staff. I particularly want to pay tribute to the courage of people who work in the air ambulance service, because they see—day in, day out—some of the most difficult and distressing cases. They have to cope with the pressure of that when they take it home every day, and we all salute them.

Elderly Patients (Care Support)

14. What clothing and other support the NHS provides to elderly people discharged from hospital into care homes for the first time. (906504)

Every patient discharged from hospital into a care home should have a care plan or discharge assessment. This should include a clear assessment of their needs, covering transport, carers, GP notification, medication and, where necessary, clothing requirements.

I have been approached by a number of constituents concerned about cases of elderly and vulnerable people who have been discharged from hospital straight into care homes, often without any basic personal effects or clothing because their family cannot or are not willing to supply them. Does the Minister recognise this, and what can the Government do to tackle it?

As I said earlier, there is a national process in the form of the care plan. Where the family is not able to or will not provide support, typically the voluntary sector is asked to do so. If that does not work, local authorities can increase the personal expenses allowance to provide clothing. I am interested to hear about the cases that my hon. Friend mentions in his constituency, and I am very happy to talk to him to understand better why the process has failed there.

Topical Questions

Last week, I announced plans to make the NHS self-sufficient in the supply of newly qualified doctors by the end of the next Parliament. We recognise the brilliant work that is done by the many outstanding overseas doctors who work in the NHS and have made it clear that, whether or not they are from the EU, we wish that work to continue post-Brexit. However, as the fifth largest economy in the world, Britain should be training all the doctors it needs. While there will always be beneficial exchanges of doctors and researchers between countries, we have a global obligation to train enough doctors for our own needs, otherwise the inevitable consequence will be to denude poorer countries of doctors whose skills are desperately needed.

Thornbury health centre is crying out for redevelopment to cater for the growing local population. Will my right hon. Friend meet me, representatives of the health centre and NHS Property Services to see how we can take a co-ordinated approach that will move the health centre forward?

I can do better than that, because I have said that I am prepared to go to the health centre. I remember a very good visit to Thornbury community hospital during the general election campaign. I understand what those at the health centre are trying to do and they are absolutely right to be thinking about how they can improve out-of-hospital services.

Will the Secretary of State look into the creation of a sideways move for a chief executive of a trust that was criticised for failing to investigate patient deaths? Six weeks after the special recruitment exercise by Southern Health, Katrina Percy has resigned from her advisory role, with a substantial 12-month salary payoff that has been signed off by the Department of Health and the Treasury. The campaign group, Justice for LB, has called that “utterly disgraceful” and I agree. Will the Secretary of State investigate?

I agree with the hon. Lady that the way this case was handled was by no means satisfactory. The truth is that it took some time to establish precisely what had gone wrong at Southern Health. As this House knows, because we made a statement at the time—I think it was an urgent question, actually—there was a failure to investigate unexplained deaths. I do not think the NHS handled the matter as well as it should, but we now have much more transparency and we do not have a situation where people go on and get other jobs in the NHS, which happened so often in the past.

T4. What will the Government do to scrutinise and assist the London ambulance service, which has had an appalling and consistently poor record on call-out times for category A emergencies? (906472)

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that the London ambulance service is in special measures and has been for some time. I visited it this summer and am pleased to confirm that some £63 million of additional funding has been provided to the ambulance service since April 2015. The service is starting to make significant inroads in increasing the number of paramedics who are available on call, with some 250 more being added over the last couple of years.

T2. Last October, the then Health Minister, the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), confirmed that my constituency fell far below the national average in terms of NHS dental provision. In fact, it is one of the worst in the country. Unfortunately, nothing has changed since then. Does the Secretary of State believe it is acceptable that my constituents, including many children, are unable to get an NHS dentist? (906470)

It is clearly unacceptable if the situation that the hon. Lady sets out is the case. I am happy to meet her and work with her to take the action that is needed to make things better.

T6. The Government have provided a welcome increase in funding for mental health support, yet it does not appear to be reaching my constituency effectively, particularly for children. Now there are concerns that the Millbrook unit at nearby Macclesfield hospital might close. Will the Secretary of State look into those concerns? (906474)

I am very happy to do that. My hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that the provision of mental health services to children is one of the biggest weak spots in NHS provision today. It is an area that we are putting a big focus on. I would be happy to talk to her about the situation in her constituency.

T3. I know that this is a devolved matter, but I look forward to the Union working together on it. In Northern Ireland, the health service is in crisis. To give cancer as an example, 6.7% of those with breast cancer are called in to be checked within 14 days—not 100%—and yet we have 392,000 people on the waiting list. Will the Secretary of State or his officials meet us to find a better way forward, so that we can all work together? (906471)

I have made it clear that we should all be working together to defeat cancer. We know that the best way of doing so is early diagnosis. We have made a lot of progress on that in England over the past few years but have a lot further to go. We are of course willing to talk to the devolved Administration about what they can learn from us—and perhaps vice versa.

T7. Will the Secretary of State look again at the decision not to fund second stem cell transplants for adults and children with blood cancers, given the significant clinical evidence of their benefit for those who relapse? He should not just take my word for it but should take it from the Anthony Nolan Trust and the 36 specialists who have written to him asking him to review the decision. (906475)

This is a very difficult area, but decisions on priority are clinically driven and must continue to be based on peer-reviewed data. The most recent review determined that less than one third of second transplants would result in survival after five years; that is why they were not funded. There will, however, be a further review next April, and to the extent that the data have changed there will be a new evaluation at that time.

T5. Deer Park medical centre in Witney faces closure, and patients will be dispersed a long way into other practices in an area where one in four already waits more than a week to see their GP. Duncan Enright, who is Labour’s candidate in the Witney by-election, is campaigning to save the centre. Will the Secretary of State reward his campaign by saving it today? (906473)

The Conservative candidate in the Witney by-election will be saying very clearly that because of the extra funding from this Government we are aiming to have 5,000 more doctors working in general practice by the end of this Parliament, something that would not have been possible with the increase of less than half that amount promised by the Labour party.

T8. As Ministers will be aware, this week is baby loss awareness week. Access to neonatal cots and neonatal transport services are vital parts of the care of premature and sick babies. What assurances will my right hon. Friend give that his Department is continuing to review the findings of the Bliss report, and when can we expect to hear more? (906477)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising baby loss awareness week. I am sure that, along with other hon. Members, she will be participating in the Backbench Business debate on that later this week. In February the independent maternity review, Better Births, made a number of recommendations, including on neonatal critical care. We are studying those recommendations and are due to report initial findings from our work in December.

I listened very closely to the Secretary of State’s comments earlier on mental health. On 9 December he stood at that Dispatch Box and said that

“CCGs are committed to increasing the proportion of their funding that goes into mental health.”—[Official Report, 9 December 2015; Vol. 603, c. 1012.]

However, my research shows that 57% of clinical commissioning groups are reducing the proportion they spend on mental health—yet another broken promise. When will we have real equality from this Government for mental health?

I will tell the hon. Lady what this Government have done. We have legislated for parity of esteem for mental health. We are treating 1,400 more people every single day for mental health conditions compared with six years ago. We have a new plan that will see 1 million more people treated every year by 2020, including a transformation of child and adolescent mental health services. That is possible because we are putting into the NHS extra money that her party refused to commit to.

T9. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government have a moral obligation to end the raid on poorer countries for their skilled doctors and nurses and to make our NHS recruitment more self-sufficient? (906478)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I find it extraordinary that the Labour party said that our plan to train more doctors was “nonsense”. We currently have 800 doctors in the NHS from Sri Lanka, 600 from Nigeria, 400 from Sudan and 200 from Myanmar. They are doing a brilliant job and I want them to continue doing that job, but we have to ask ourselves whether it is ethical for us to continue to recruit doctors from much poorer countries that really need their skills.

I was alarmed to read at the weekend that NHS chiefs are warning that hospitals in England are on the brink of collapse. Is it the Government’s intention to cut the public supply of healthcare in order to create demand for a private healthcare system, or will they give the NHS the additional funds it needs?

Let me remind the hon. Lady that the party that introduced the most outsourcing to the private sector was her Labour Government under the previous Health Secretary, Alan Milburn. Our view is that we should be completely neutral as to whether local doctors decide to commission their care from the public sector or private sector. We want the best care for patients.

I welcomed last week’s NHS Improvement report which states that there are now sufficient staff for Chorley and South Ribble hospital’s A&E department to reopen, but I am dismayed that the trust is delaying the reopening until January next year. Will the Minister reassure me that he will work with me and other stakeholders to oblige the trust to open as soon as possible?

My hon. Friend has been a doughty champion of Chorley, in combination with another Member of the House and local campaigners, who visited the Houses of Parliament yesterday to meet local MPs. While welcoming the reopening of the A&E from January, I am happy to continue to work with my hon. Friend to see whether it can be brought forward.

The other doughty champion of the hospital is of course the right hon. Member for Chorley (Mr Hoyle), who regularly deputises for me in this Chair. I am sure the House will want to acknowledge that important fact.

I heard the Minister’s response earlier. He was of course right that sustainability and transformation plans are led locally, but he failed to acknowledge that the Government have given a mandate to make cuts attached to STPs. Without consultation, my local hospital has been downgraded. What on earth will the Secretary of State say to my constituents who may lose loved ones because they have had to travel miles further to another hospital?

If I may, I will give a quote:

“To reshape services over the next 10 years, the NHS will need the freedom to collaborate, integrate and merge across organisational divides.”

That comes from the 2015 Labour manifesto. The STP process is designed to bring about better care and health, and better productivity. We should be critical friends of the process because we all want a better national health service.

Local health commissioners have concluded that Telford’s brand new women and children’s centre, which serves some of the most deprived populations in the country, should be closed and moved to a more affluent area where health is better than the national average. The commissioning process has lost the confidence of local people. Will the Secretary of State intervene and ensure that local health commissioners fulfil their legal duty to reduce health inequalities?

I thank my hon. Friend for standing up for her constituents—it is absolutely right that she should do so. She would agree that that has to be a local matter led by commissioners locally, but she can be reassured that we are always watching what is happening to ensure that people follow due process, and that the results of any changes proposed benefit patients as intended. I will therefore watch very carefully what is happening in Telford and in Shropshire more broadly.

About half a dozen times in the last hour, the Secretary of State has bragged about the extra money he is putting in to the national health service, so why is Bolsover hospital, like many others that have been referred to in the past half hour, due to close? Why are neighbouring hospitals in countless constituencies in Derbyshire closing? Why does he not use some of that money to save the Derbyshire hospitals?

The extra money we are putting in to the NHS is going to better cancer care, better mental health care and better GP provision—it is going to all the things that Members on both sides of the House know matter. It will also mean that we can support our hospitals better. With our ageing population, we will continue to have great demand for hospital care, but the best way to relieve pressure on those hospitals is to invest in better out-of-hospital care, which has not been done for many years.

Kettering general hospital is treating a record number of patients with increasingly world-class treatments, yet despite being located in an area of rapid population growth, due to an historic anomaly, the funding for the local clinical commissioning groups is among the worst in the country in relative terms. What can Her Majesty’s Government do to correct that?

I am happy to look at that particular funding issue for my hon. Friend. I know that Kettering hospital is under a great deal of pressure. The one thing that it could do to relieve its financial pressures is to look at the number of agency and locum staff that it employs. As with many hospitals, there are big savings to be made in that respect in ways that improve rather than decrease the quality of clinical care.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the Public Accounts Committee has questioned both the Department of Health and NHS England on the parlous state of NHS accounts this year, following the comments by the Comptroller and Auditor General. It is clear that STPs are the only plan on the table. Will the Secretary of State make clear his support to the NHS to deliver the STPs in the teeth of opposition from his own Back Benchers? If he will not, what is plan B?

I do not recognise the picture the hon. Lady paints about opposition to STPs. We need to ensure we have good plans that will deliver better care for NHS patients by bringing together and integrating the health and social care system, and improving the quality of out-of-hospital plans. While we are in a period where those plans have not been published there will obviously be a degree of uncertainty, which we will do everything we can to alleviate, but she is right to say that these plans are very important for the future of the NHS. The process has our full support.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the concern in my constituency about the future of Paignton hospital, which prompted hundreds to turn up to a recent meeting. Does he agree with me that it is vital the clinical commissioning group, in publishing its plans, does not just publish what it will remove but the details of what it will replace them with?

Considerable efforts are going into sorting out some of the historical challenges in the provision of both acute and community care in Devon. I hosted a meeting for a number of colleagues who are concerned about this and I am happy to continue to engage with colleagues across the county.

Two years ago, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust privatised support services, including cleaning, handing them over to Carillion in an effort to save money. Since then there have been shortages of equipment, shortages of staff and an appalling decline in standards of cleanliness. Will the Secretary of State condemn Carillion for putting patients at risk? When will he ensure that hospital services in Nottingham are properly funded?

The decision on whether to outsource services must be a matter for local hospitals. I know that that hospital has been struggling with its deficit. I have been to visit the hospital myself and I know it has been trying very hard to improve clinical care. If the contract is not working and the quality is not right, I would expect the hospital to change it, but it must be its decision.

I am sorry, but, rather as in the health service under any Government, demand has exceeded supply and we must move on.

I was keeping the hon. Lady waiting for only a moment, so that there was a due sense of anticipation in the House. That sense now definitely exists.