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House of Commons Hansard
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24 July 2018
Volume 645
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9. What steps he is taking to tackle workforce shortages in the NHS. [906614]

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17. What steps he is taking to tackle workforce shortages in the NHS. [906623]

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We now have more professionally qualified clinical staff working in the NHS: over 41,000 more since 2010, including over 14,000 more doctors and over 13,000 more nurses on our wards.

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The majority of NHS staff in Scotland will benefit from a 9% pay rise over the next three years; their equivalents in England will get a much lower increase, and we do not even know if the funding for that is secured. Does the Minister have any concerns that nurses in England may choose to relocate to Scotland where they could be paid almost £1,000 more and work for a health service whose Government actually value its work?

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It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman asks that question, because it is worth looking at some of the facts. Over the five years to 2017 health spending increased by 20% in England but by only 14% in Scotland. As a consequence, people are 30% more likely to wait 18 weeks for treatment in Scotland than in England, and the increase in the number of nurses and doctors in England has been higher than in Scotland. Perhaps the SNP should look at how we have been performing in the NHS in England and learn from that.

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In that case, perhaps the Secretary of State will join the Royal College of Nursing in welcoming the action by the Scottish Government to enshrine safe staffing levels and ratios in law. Given that there are over 36,000 vacant nursing posts in the NHS in England, when will he follow the Scottish Government’s lead and bring forward legislation on safe staffing levels?

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I have seen what has happened, and maybe the reason why the SNP has had to do that is that in England we have increased the medical workforce faster than in Scotland. When the performances improve in the Scottish NHS, we in England will start to take lessons, but until then I will concentrate on making sure we get the very best NHS right across the country.

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Barely two years after the shock closure of Deer Park medical centre in Witney, the people of Witney are now deeply concerned over the future of Cogges medical centre. Please will Ministers explain what they are doing to help with recruitment and retention of GPs in rural areas, and will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss the provision of GP services in our market towns?

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I or the Minister of State would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend. Making sure that our GP services are of high quality and can respond to the health needs in the local community is absolutely mission-critical to getting prevention right, and I hope that my hon. Friend’s insights will feed into the long-term plan to guarantee the future of the NHS.

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I congratulate the Secretary of State and remind him that when he tours the high streets of Britain he will find an increasing number of acupuncturists, herbal medicine practitioners, reflexologists, yoga practitioners and many more, and they all have one thing in common: none of them is available on the health service. Will he introduce a review that takes into account patient experience and practitioner experience?

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s long campaign in this area, and I very much look forward to working with him on it to ensure that we get the right evidence-based approach to using all kinds of medicines and technologies for the benefit of patients.

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I welcome the new Secretary of State to his post. He has said that the whole workforce of the NHS and social care should have the chance to fulfil their potential, but the care workforce has an annual turnover of 27% and a vacancy rate of 7%, and, sadly, care staff learned last week that they would not even be paid the national minimum wage for sleep-in shifts, which will potentially drive even more people away from working in social care. Will the Secretary of State demonstrate the leadership that this Government have lacked on this issue and ask the Chancellor to change the regulations on the national minimum wage for sleep-in shifts, to show care staff that they matter?

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I value every person who works in the NHS and in social care, because everybody plays a part in improving the wellbeing and the health of the nation. I care deeply about that. On the question of sleep-in shifts, I saw the decision by the court and I have already had conversations with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which leads on this regulation, to ensure that we can get the rules right for the future.