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Healthcare Spending

Volume 617: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2016

3. How much his Department spent on healthcare as a proportion of GDP in (a) 2009-10 and (b) 2015-16; and what estimate he has made of the amount that will be spent on healthcare as a proportion of GDP in 2020-21. (907199)

Because of the 2008 financial crisis, all political parties committed to reducing the proportion of GDP spent on health in 2010, but because this Government chose to protect the NHS, the proportion fell from 6.4% to 6.2%, a drop of just 0.2% of GDP.

While welcome, that creative response does not answer the question. The fall in GDP spent on health is worrying. To mitigate that fall, when can my constituency expect its share of the Brexit NHS bonus to be injected into its health economy, which would bring in £30 million a year?

No one would be more delighted than the Health Secretary if we had a Brexit bonus for the NHS, which is why we are getting on with negotiating the best possible Brexit deal for this country, including by invoking article 50 as soon as possible.

I thank the Secretary of State for taking time last week to visit the Peterborough City hospital and to praise the magnificent staff there, who are labouring under a £35 million annual private finance initiative millstone. Is the wider context not that we would have a lot more money to spend on front-line care if we did not have to deal with a poisonous legacy from Labour of £64 billion of appalling PFI contracts in the NHS?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was incredibly impressed with the staff I met at Peterborough hospital—there was incredible commitment to patients and some fantastic work going on in the oncology and renal departments, which I visited. He is right: PFI was a disastrous mistake, saddling hospitals up and down the country with huge amounts of debt, which cannot now be put into front-line patient care. We are doing everything we can to sort that out and not repeat those mistakes.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the NHS spends only about £400 million a year on homeopathic medicine and treatments through the 400 doctors who have trained in homeopathy and are members of the faculty. If he wants to reduce antibiotic prescribing, may I suggest that he increases that budget, because there are very good scientific trials now showing that upper respiratory tract infections can be treated using homeopathic medicine? May I write to him about that?

May I commend my hon. Friend for his great persistence in flying the flag for homeopathic medicine? While we must always follow the science in the way we spend our money on medicines, as I know he agrees, he is right to highlight the threat of antibiotic resistance and the need to be open to every possible way of reducing it.

Today I publish my first annual report as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, in which I conclude that there is a sustainability crisis in the funding of the NHS. Surely the Secretary of State will agree—he has made some comments in the media that suggest he is becoming aware of this—that he will need to lobby the Chancellor for a better settlement in the autumn statement. Will he update the House on his negotiations?

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady but I do not update the House on Government discussions which happen in the run-up to every Budget and autumn statement. What I would say to the hon. Lady is that I am not someone who believes that the financial pressures that undoubtedly exist in the NHS and social care system threaten the fundamental model of the NHS. What they remind us all of is that what we need in this country is a strong economy that will allow us to continue funding the NHS and social care systems as we cope with the pressures of an elderly population. That, for me, is the most important challenge—the economic challenge that will allow us to fund the NHS.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, under his tenure as the Minister, there has been a real-terms increase in spending on the NHS in England, unlike in Wales, where, over the last few years, we have seen real-terms cuts under the Labour party?

As ever, my hon. Friend speaks wisely. Thanks to this Government, health spending in England is up by 10.1% in cash terms—4.6% in real terms—since 2010. That is double the cash increase in Scotland and three times the cash increase in Wales. Other parties talk about funding the NHS, but Conservatives say that actions speak louder than words.

But we have seen public health budgets cut and social care budgets cut, and I can now tell the House that the maintenance budgets have been cut. In fact, the backlog of high-risk maintenance facing the NHS has soared by 69% in the past year. In London alone, the high-risk backlog has grown by £338 million; across the country the figure is nearly £5 billion. NHS finances are so stretched that even the most urgent repairs are being left undone. Is this what the Secretary of State meant when he said that he is giving the NHS the money it asked for?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has only been shadow Health Secretary for a while, but may I ask him to cast his mind back to 2010, when the party that wanted to cut the NHS budget was not the Conservative party but Labour? In 2015, his party turned its back on the five year forward view and said it would increase funding not by £8 billion but by just £2.5 billion. It is not enough to found the NHS—you have got to fund it.

Order. These exchanges, not untypically, are taking far too long, and part of the reason for that is that the Secretary of State keeps dilating on the policies of the Labour party. If he does so again, I will sit him down straight away. [Interruption.] Order. There are a lot of colleagues who want to ask questions. We want to hear about Government policy, not that of the Opposition. I have said it, it is clear— please heed it.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

If everything is so rosy with the NHS’s finances, why did Simon Stevens say just a couple of weeks ago that

“2018-19 will be the most pressurised year for us, where we will actually have negative per-person NHS funding growth in England”—

in other words, that NHS spending per head will be falling? The number of patients waiting longer than four hours in A&Es has increased. The number of days lost to delayed discharge has increased. The number of people waiting more than 62 days to start cancer treatment following referral has increased. Should not the Secretary of State do his job and make sure that next week’s autumn statement delivers the money that the NHS urgently needs?

Unlike other parties in this House, we have been increasing funding for the NHS. Thanks to that, we are now funding the NHS in England at a 10% higher proportion of GDP than the OECD average, and we are in line with the western European average because of our commitment. These are difficult financial times and there is financial pressure, but this Government have been saying that despite that financial pressure we must make sure that the NHS continues to offer safe, high-quality care—and that is our focus.