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Topical Questions

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2018

When something goes tragically wrong in healthcare, the best apology to grieving families is to guarantee that no one will experience the same heartache again. Last week I accepted the recommendations of the Williams review of gross negligence manslaughter, and we announced a new national clinical improvement programme to provide NHS consultants with confidential data on their clinical outcomes. From next April independent medical examiners will examine every hospital death, and the learning from deaths programme will be extended to primary care.

Will the Secretary of State encourage NHS England to respond to my freedom of information request of 13 March this year regarding Greater Manchester Shared Services and the likely failure of the NHS to correctly enforce guidance on recruiting agency staff in the reappointment of Deborah Hancox after her criminal conviction and two-year prison sentence for defrauding the NHS? How can we employ these people?

The hon. Lady has highlighted what is potentially an extremely serious issue. Obviously the FOI is a matter for NHS England, but let me reassure her that the Minister for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay)—the hospitals Minister—met the chief executive of the NHS Counter Fraud Authority this morning.

T6. A recent report by the King’s Fund highlighted the potential for a hypothecated source of funding for health and care, with national insurance as a possible starting point. Does my right hon. Friend agree with the report that hypothecation would increase transparency in regard to what our constituents pay for health and care, and will he encourage the Chancellor to look at the report’s implications? (905943)

I thought that the report made powerful reading, and I know that my hon. Friend was associated with it. Yesterday the Prime Minister was straightforward about the fact that, if we are to preserve our NHS and make it one of the best systems in the world, the burden of taxation will need to increase, and she was willing to listen to the views of colleagues about the most appropriate way in which that should be done.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has reported a £7 billion reduction in adult social care funding since 2010, and Age UK has reported there are now “care deserts” in some parts of the country. There are 1.2 million older people living with unmet care needs, and one in five care services has the poorest quality ratings from the Care Quality Commission.

As well as a long-term funding solution for social care, we need the extra £1 billion this year and £8 billion in the current Parliament that Labour pledged before last year’s general election. However, all that the Government offer is a delayed Green Paper. When will the Secretary of State deal with the current crisis in social care?

No, that is not correct. Yesterday we made very clear our support for the social care system and our recognition that reform of the NHS must go hand in glove with the social care system, and we said there would be a new financial settlement for the social care system. It is also time that the Labour party took some responsibility for the financial crisis that made all these cuts necessary.

T7. Prostate cancer survival rates may be at a record high, but it is still among the biggest cancer killers in our country today. What can the Government do to save more lives in this area? (905944)

Survival rates are high, but I am ambitious for more. That is why the Prime Minister recently announced £75 million to support new research into the early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. We will recruit 40,000 patients into more than 60 studies over the next five years, and further to this even more exciting is the rapid pathway that I was discussing yesterday with Cally Palmer, our national cancer director, which we are trialling across three hospital sites in west London as part of its local cancer alliance.

T2. Given the challenges the Secretary of State and his Government face in recruiting and retaining health and social care staff, will he follow the example of the Scottish Government, who pay their social care assistants and care assistants the real living wage, meaning they earn £1,100 a year more than their counterparts in England? (905938)

May I gently remind the hon. Lady that it was this Conservative Government who introduced the national living wage, and we did that on the basis of transforming the economy, championing policies that were by and large opposed every step of the way by the Scottish National party?

The Minister of State visited my hospital trust last month. Is he in a position to support its requests, and will he say whether he is satisfied with the progress it is making to remove itself from special measures?

I very much enjoyed visiting the trust with my hon. Friend. As he will be aware from our discussion during that visit a process for capital bids is under way. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out, the date for that is mid-July and I look forward to seeing the bid from my hon. Friend’s trust.

T3. NICE guide- lines on IVF seem to be largely honoured in the breach, leading to a postcode lottery across the country. Is it acceptable that women in North Lincolnshire who cannot conceive are being refused IVF if their partner has had children in another relationship? (905940)

I recently met the hon. Gentleman’s party colleague, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe), to discuss this matter with the facility. We are very clear: we expect all clinical commissioning groups to honour the NICE guidelines. I am very cross that CCGs tend to view IVF services as low-hanging fruit with which to make cuts. That is totally unacceptable and I will be taking steps to remind them of that.

My hon. Friend has visited Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow and has acknowledged that it is not fit for purpose. Will he use the excellent £20 billion of extra NHS funding to ensure we get the Harlow hospital health campus we need?

My right hon. Friend is right to champion this, as he did through the recent Adjournment debate, when he set out the case in more detail. We recognise, as we did at the last Health questions and in the Adjournment debate, that there are significant issues with the local hospital, and that is why it is working very actively on its bid for capital funding.

T4. Four months ago, a damning report exposed the extent of abuse inflicted on children for decades sent overseas by this Department. It said that compensation must be paid, and urgently, because people have died and others are dying. It took a month for the Prime Minister to work out which Department was responsible, and another month for the Health Minister, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), to tell me she was formulating a response. Has she got a response today, or is she honestly going to stand at that Dispatch Box and tell me and all those survivors that the Prime Minister has spent £64 million of public money on a report that the Minister is now trying to bury? (905941)

I reject that accusation; we are far from burying it. The Prime Minister is looking at responding to the interim report. I will repeat what I said to the hon. Lady when she last asked this question. We are quite clear that the child migrant policy was wrong. We have apologised for that policy, and we have established a £7 million family restoration fund. The response from the Government to that report will be laid in due course.

Can the Minister provide an update on the work being undertaken by the policy research unit on obesity to consider the relationship between the many streams of marketing and obesity, and can he tell us whether the unit is looking specifically at childhood obesity?

The National Institute for Health Research—the policy research unit—is specifically looking at the impact of the marketing of products with a high sugar, fat or salt content on children’s food and drink preferences and consumption. The unit has already published a report on children’s exposure to television advertising, and it will be publishing further findings from other projects later this year.

T5. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that there is no such thing as a Brexit dividend, so the Secretary of State will need to put up taxes to fund our NHS. Will he be transparent and promise NHS workers in Portsmouth, to whom he has only just given a pay rise, that the burden will not fall on hard-working families like them—or is he robbing Peter to pay Boris? (905942)

Will the hon. Gentleman be transparent, if he disagrees with the Brexit dividend, and challenge his own party leader, who supports it?

I am delighted that our NHS will be getting an extra £20 billion. This has long been at the top of my agenda, and the agenda of my constituents. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, to ensure that that money is always spent on the NHS, we need to consider a hypothecated tax as part of the funding plan?

As I say, there are compelling arguments in favour of hypothecated taxes, but there are also strong reasons why we have to be cautious—namely, the fact that tax revenues go up and down, year on year, while the NHS needs stable funding. Important arguments and discussions need to happen between now and the Budget, when the Chancellor will make that decision.

T8. In the light of the additional funding announced by the Secretary of State yesterday, will he tell me how much additional funding will be provided for palliative care, which I highlighted in my Terminal Illness (Provision of Palliative Care and Support for Carers) Bill? (905945)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his private Member’s Bill. Palliative care is something that we do well in the UK—thanks, a lot, to the brilliant hospice movement—but we can do a lot better. I know that this will be an important part of the NHS plan.

Stroke is the fourth largest single cause of death in Britain. What action are the Government taking to prevent stroke and to raise awareness? And will the Minister meet me to discuss my GP surgery at Sutherland Lodge?

Two for the price of one. Up to 70% of strokes are preventable if hypertension, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, cholesterol and other lifestyle factors are detected and managed earlier. The current national stroke strategy came to an end last year, so we are working closely with NHS England and the Stroke Association on a new national plan, which I hope to publish this summer.

T9. One of the biggest causes of regional health inequalities is the broken social care system, yet yesterday’s announcement postponed social care reforms again until the autumn. There is no end in sight for the overstretched and underfunded social care system, and without reforms to care, the extra money for the NHS will be wasted. Will the Minister bring up the timetable for those reforms before the care system collapses? (905946)

The fundamental issue here is that we need a social care system that works hand in hand with our health services—the two are umbilically linked. The key plank of the new NHS 10-year plan must be the full integration of health and care services. It does not make sense to publish the Green Paper before the NHS plan has even been drafted. We will bring forward a Green Paper, but in the meantime, spending on adult social care has gone up by 8% this year.

Like many others, I welcome the announcement yesterday of the £20 billion investment in the NHS. Will my right hon. Friend join me in seeking assurances that the £2 billion extra for the Scottish Government shall be allocated to spending on the NHS in Scotland?

I sincerely hope so, because Scottish NHS patients are currently 30% more likely to wait too long for their elective care.

What comparison has the Minister made of the cost of preventing children and young people’s mental health issues by tackling adverse childhood experience in the first few years of life, rather than letting them develop into much costlier issues for school-age children?

The hon. Lady will be aware that there is much work going on in this area. We are clear that we need to tackle these issues in schools, which is in the Green Paper, but more support also needs to be given in the early years. We are looking at how we can do that.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust recently announced that it is to share the chairman and chief executive of the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. Will the Minister meet me to ensure that the new arrangements will help to secure services in North Devon?

Last November, the Health Secretary committed to ending out-of-area mental health placements by 2020, but the number of people placed more than 100 km from their home rose by 65% over the past year. The earlier response from the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), was no answer, so what are the Government actually going to do to turn the situation around?

There are record numbers of tier 4 beds, and we are putting record amounts of money into mental health.

Mr Speaker, you will recall recently granting me a Westminster Hall debate on the HPV vaccine for boys. Will the Department update me on progress?

I remember that debate. The matter was on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s June agenda, and I am awaiting its advice with bated breath. As I said in the debate, I will turn that advice around as soon as I get it and get a decision. I know a lot of people are waiting on that.

Order. I am sorry, but we have run out of time. However, the person whom I think has been standing the longest is Rachael Maskell.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. NHS Property Services intends to sell the Bootham Park Hospital site, but reinvesting in that site would make such a difference to the health needs of our city. Will the Minister ensure that that happens?

I have met the hon. Lady, and she made her case in a characteristically powerful fashion. The matter is being looked at actively.

As I understand that the point of order flows from Health questions, I will take it if it is brief.

Very brief, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that he would place the details of the funding settlement in the Library, but the paper has not yet been deposited. Mr Speaker, given the implications for higher tax and spending, will you use your good offices to ensure that that paper is deposited as soon as possible?

I dare say that it will be, but the Secretary of State has heard the hon. Gentleman and is nodding enthusiastically from his sedentary position, and I take the nod as an indication of good intent.

Forthwith. Splendid. The hon. Gentleman looks satisfied—at least for now.

We have an urgent question in a moment from Alison Thewliss. I advise the House that it is on an extremely important matter that warrants urgent treatment on the Floor of the House, but it does not warrant treatment at length. I do not intend to run it for any longer than 20 minutes, because there is other business to protect.