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House of Commons Hansard
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24 July 2018
Volume 645
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T2. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [906632]

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We have proposed £20 billion more funding for the NHS to guarantee its future, and I am looking forward to working with everyone in the NHS and the social care system on a long-term plan to ensure that that money is well spent. Today, we have published for the House the 2018-19 pay settlement for doctors and dentists. It represents the highest pay settlement since 2008. I regard it as a first step and look forward to a wider conversation on pay and improvements to help to make the NHS the best employer in the world.

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Will the Secretary of State update the House on the progress of Baroness Cumberlege’s review of the use of mesh implants? Will he confirm whether the inquiry will liaise with the Scottish Government and whether it will hold any evidence sessions in Scotland? There are plenty of women, including some in my constituency, who had operations in England but now live in Scotland. Their voices must be heard in the inquiry.

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Yes, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We published information on this issue just last week. We absolutely will consult the Scottish Government and all interested stakeholders. It is a very important matter to get right.

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T5. Last year, 7.3 million people were prescribed antidepressants, including more than 70,000 children. That is an increase of more than 500% in the past 20 years. In welcoming the Secretary of State’s announcement on social prescribing, may I, as co-chair of the all-party group on mindfulness, ask him what part mindfulness and other evidence-based non-drug options will play in the strategy? Would he like to undertake a mindfulness course, and in doing so join the now more than 150 other MPs and Lords who have done so at Westminster? [906636]

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I would be absolutely thrilled to. I have previously participated in mindfulness training. In fact, the former chairman of my local Conservative association became a mindfulness instructor, which shows how much we take it seriously locally. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work on this issue. He will have seen that, even in my first two weeks in this role I have already spoken out in favour of moves towards social prescribing and the broader prescribing of less intervention and less medicinal methods, where possible, because medicines do of course have their place. The work that he has done on this issue over many years is to be applauded.

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I welcome the Secretary of State to his post. May I take a moment to thank all the NHS and social care staff who are caring for vulnerable patients in this intense summer heat?

The new Secretary of State inherits waiting lists at 4.3 million, with more than 3,000 patients waiting more than a year for an operation. He inherits a situation in which 1,700 patient requests for hip and knee operations have been refused, and in which patients in Sussex are now expected to endure “Uncontrolled, intense, persistent pain” for six months before they receive hip or knee treatment. Does he consider such increased rationing to be fair?

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. Like him, I pay tribute to the work of NHS and social care staff in this summer heat. There are of course pressures on the NHS—I fully acknowledge that—and he raises a couple that I have already raised with NHS England. What he did not mention was that since 2010 there are 6,000 more operations every day and 1,800 more emergency admissions every day.

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Since 2010, the NHS has suffered the biggest financial squeeze in its history, and the rationing that I referred to is a consequence of that squeeze.

Let me ask the Secretary of State about general practice, which he will know is facing a severe workforce crisis, with GP numbers down by 1,000 and many GPs worried about the patient safety implications of the Babylon app, which we have already discussed this morning, and its funding implications for their model of practice. When Babylon itself admits that it is still testing it out, when Hammersmith and Fulham CCG says that

“there is evidence of concern regarding the risk to patient safety”

of expanding the service, and when Birmingham and Solihull CCG questions whether Babylon can operate in an effective and safe manner, why does the Secretary of State dismiss concerns about patient safety and say that the rules simply need to be updated? Will he tell us what specific rules will be updated to allay concerns about patient safety?

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It is almost as if it was not just my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) who popped out, but the shadow Secretary of State, who obviously was not here for the earlier discussion. Getting more resources and increased resources into primary care and to GPs in particular is absolutely mission critical to the long-term sustainability of the NHS. I am delighted that there is record GP recruitment at the moment and that the work that has been done to increase GP training is bearing fruit. On the question of new technology, as we discussed over a series of questions earlier, yes, it is important to make sure that it works well and that the rules are right but, if we turn our backs on new technology, we are turning our backs on better care.

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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new position. Despite having incredible NHS staff, our hospital in Harlow, the Princess Alexandra Hospital, is not fit for purpose in terms of its building. We desperately need a new hospital. Will he visit Princess Alexandra Hospital as Secretary of State and will he please make sure that we get the new hospital that we urgently need in the constituency of Harlow?

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I pay tribute to the work that my right hon. Friend has done over many years making the case for his hospital, which I have heard loud and clear. I always enjoy visiting Harlow, especially when I am his guest. I hear the case that he puts and look forward to visiting soon.

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T3. Last month, a constituent contacted me about the care of her adult son who needed to be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act 2007. She was told that no beds were available anywhere in the country. The following day, a bed was identified but when, after three hours’ wait, the ambulance had not arrived, the bed was filled by another patient. Three days later, he was finally admitted to hospital. The head of mental health at Nottingham City Council told me that this is not an infrequent occurrence. Secretary of State, how is this an acceptable standard of mental healthcare? [906633]

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Clearly, the sequence of events that the hon. Lady has outlined is completely unacceptable. We have obviously set out clear expectations on NHS England to commission sufficient beds to enable local placements where possible and specialist care where a more acute service is required. It is up to NHS England to ensure that sufficient services are commissioned and I will readily take up that case with NHS England.

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I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new position.

On Friday, a retired NHS consultant visited my surgery to talk about carpal tunnel syndrome. It appears that some of the operations are not going to happen now, and he said that they can happen at general practice level for about a third of the cost that they happen at hospital level. Is there an opportunity, yes, to save money but also to do things better by moving surgery out to community facilities? Can we explore such opportunities before these decisions are taken?

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My right hon. Friend raises an important point about ensuring that procedures are done in the right place at the right cost, but primarily in a way that is best for the patient. I am happy to meet her to discuss the specifics of that and to see whether a change can be made.

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T4. Despite previous reassurances from Health Ministers, I continue to receive reports from constituents of waiting times for referrals to child and adolescent mental health services in excess of nine months and, with an extremely high threshold for support, many are turned away. The Government spend less than 1% of the NHS budget on children’s mental health. When will the Department stop failing our children and gives CAMHS the investment that it desperately needs? [906634]

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The hon. Lady will be aware of the proposals that we have in the children and young people’s mental health Green Paper. We have very ambitious plans to roll out a whole new workforce to work in schools to support children at an earlier stage of mental ill health. Why we have these proposals is that we readily admit that an insufficient number of children are able to access services at present, and that is why we are making this investment.

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My constituent, Aaron Winstanley, from Barton-upon-Humber is currently in Germany receiving immunotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer. The local community has reacted magnificently, raising around half of the £300,000 that this treatment costs. Could the Minister outline what is being done to introduce this treatment into England?

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I wish my hon. Friend’s constituent well and pay tribute to the money that the local community has raised. I will connect my hon. Friend to the office of Cally Palmer, the national cancer director. As we write the new long-term plan for the NHS—to which the cancer stream is so central—we will ensure that innovative new technologies and treatments that were not thought of even a few years ago are also at its centre.

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T6. Three times more people die by suicide each year than in road accidents. Today, Samaritans volunteers across the UK are taking part in its awareness campaign, “The Big Listen”. What action is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that local agencies are encouraged and resourced to carry out awareness-raising work to get out the message that suicide is preventable, not inevitable, in line with NICE’s draft guidelines? [906638]

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I thank the hon. Lady for her dedicated work on this issue. She is right to pay tribute to the work of the Samaritans, and the Department is pleased to do everything that we can to support the Samaritans in this area. Our real tool for tackling suicide is to ensure that the local suicide prevention plans are up to spec to deliver a reduction in suicides. We will be taking steps properly to interrogate the quality of the plans so that we can deliver against the guidelines.

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I welcome the Secretary of State to his position, especially given his background in data and digital. What is he going to do to improve NHS data management to enable its use to develop the next generation of drugs and medical technologies to deliver better health outcomes?

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That is a great question. Not only can technology improve in health settings; there are even greater opportunities on the research side. Getting the data structures right is mission critical, but there is so much more that we can do.

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T7. To help to reduce childhood obesity, 76% of people support a ban on junk food adverts before 9 o’clock, but the consultation on this is going into the middle distance. Critics would say that the Government are dragging their feet. By when will we see this ban finally put into place? [906639]

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We announced that we will be consulting less than a month ago. I have been closely involved in this in my previous role, as well as in this one. We will ensure that we take an evidence-based approach, but I am determined that we proceed.

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Will the Secretary of State come down to East Sussex to view the Better Together partnership, which puts health and social care together?

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How could I say no? The integration of health and social care is vital and long awaited, and there is so much to do.

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As someone who is about to have a knee operation, may I tell the Secretary of State that it is a painful thing to wait for and that people should not have to stay on waiting lists for long periods of time? My question is about hospital medical staff. Western Mail carried out a survey to look at the effect of EU nationals leaving the national health service because of Brexit. It found one health board saying that there were 1,200 more nurses than there were four years ago, and another saying that there were 1,400 fewer. No one seems to be able to tell us with absolute certainty the numbers of these staff in the health service.

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I listened carefully to the right hon. Lady because she has long been a campaigner on health issues, and I very much take her point about knee operations. Of course, the number of EU nationals working in the NHS in England has risen by over 4,000 since the referendum. I know that there are concerns in specific areas, but I hope that we can all take reassurance from the fact that that number has continued to rise. We are determined to ensure that the NHS has the workforce that it needs.

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I welcome the Secretary of State to his place. I encourage him to visit the most rural part of England, up in Northumberland, to see for himself the challenges to healthcare provision due to the lack of a real rural financial formula. Will he update my constituents and the Save Rothbury Hospital campaign on how the review for that community hospital is going? That sort of low-level care is what makes the difference.

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I am happy to discuss with my hon. Friend how we provide support. Addressing the fact that 43% of patients in acutes do not actually clinically need to be in hospital is a key objective of the long-term plan to ensure that we get the right community services and relieve pressure from acutes.

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I am sorry, but as in the national health service—under Governments of whichever colour—demand massively outstrips supply. I have tried to extend the envelope, but we must now move on. [Interruption.] I heard the shadow Chancellor’s observation from a sedentary position, which may well be recorded in the Official Report. We now move on to the urgent question.