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Topical Questions

Volume 650: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2018

This month, we launched our vision for the prevention of ill health that sets out measures to help increase life expectancy by at least five years because prevention is better than cure. We need to give people responsibility for their own health, while empowering them to make the right decisions in the right way. We are also saving more than £1 billion on the NHS drugs budget and committing more than £3.5 billion to primary and community care. Next month, we will publish the long-term plan for how we spend the extra £20 billion committed to the future of the NHS.

19 November marked the three-year licence of the cystic fibrosis drug, Orkambi, in the UK, which is still not available on the NHS. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether there has been any further consideration to provide interim access to this treatment for patients, such as my constituents Annabelle Brennan and Cameron Jameson, while these negotiations continue?

The NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence have written to Vertex, the company involved. I am determined to see progress. We have made the largest ever proposal to Vertex, at half a billion pounds. It needs to engage with this very generous offer, which will mean that everyone wins, most of all those suffering from this awful condition. The ball is in Vertex’s court.

The learning disabilities mortality review—the LeDeR—investigated 1,000 early deaths of people with learning disabilities in hospital settings, but today major concerns have been raised by the parents of Oliver McGowan about the way in which some deaths have been investigated. The Secretary of State knows that 40 autistic people and people with learning disabilities died in assessment and treatment units, and he has called for a year-long review of the use of seclusion in ATUs. But that is not urgent action. Will he commit to stopping the use of ATUs immediately and to looking urgently at how early deaths are being investigated, particularly that of Oliver McGowan?

I have met Oliver McGowan’s mum, Paula, on a number of occasions, so I am more than aware of this case. I have spoken to her about the deeply distressing report she has had on Oliver’s death. The NHS is looking into this case and will continue to work with Bristol University to further develop and improve guidance and local review teams.

T4. The Secretary of State and I spent the night together at Derriford Hospital down in Plymouth, so he will be aware of the unique challenges facing that hospital, which has not had an infrastructure expansion since the 1970s. We have a bid in at the moment. Can we hear whether we have done well before Christmas? (907876)

I can recommend to anybody spending the night with my hon. Friend in Derriford Hospital, where we learnt a huge amount. The team there were absolutely amazing and it was a brilliant experience. I also learnt a lot about the capital bid, which I have been keeping my eye on very closely. My hon. Friend should hear shortly.

T2. My niece Maisie turned 14 last week, and she has cystic fibrosis. It is not enough for the Secretary of State to say that letters are being sent back and forth between the drugs company and NICE. Will he get the relevant parties in a room, with him chairing the meeting, so that teenagers such as Maisie can have the drugs that will certainly change their lives, if not save them? (907874)

I have a huge amount of sympathy for the hon. Lady’s point. We did act to ensure that the parties came together. The offer has been made and the response from the company has frankly not been good enough. It needs to come to the table; the ball is in its court.

T5. Does the Minister agree that last week’s success by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust management in securing sufficient qualified clinicians to keep the A&E and Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital open 24/7, rather than closing it overnight, is a positive first step on the journey out of special measures? (907877)

My hon. Friend is right. I welcome the trust’s recent announcement that it now has enough middle-grade doctors and nurses to keep the Prince Royal Hospital’s A&E open 24/7. It has been receiving some excellent support from NHS Improvement, and I hope that it will achieve similar success in improving the quality of care as that support continues.

T3. It has been eight months since the child abuse inquiry that the Prime Minister set up recommended urgently that compensation be paid to the survivors of the child migration programmes. The Prime Minister said that she would act; she did not. The Minister said that she would respond; she has not. Twenty-two people have died since that report was published. How can we believe a single word said by the Government today, when so many promises to people who deserve better have been broken? Where is the response to this report? (907875)

The hon. Lady makes a very good point. When we last discussed this matter over the Dispatch Box, I said that it was my ambition to come back to her as soon as possible, but we have to agree a cross-Government response, which is imminent. However, she is quite right; we really need to respond as soon as possible.

T6. Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting Oakthorpe Primary School in my constituency to celebrate its gold award for mental health and wellbeing from Leeds Beckett University. Will the Minister outline to the House what further support the Government are offering schools to help them deal with children’s mental health issues? (907879)

My hon. Friend will be aware that we have brought forward proposals to have a mental health lead in all schools. We are also introducing a brand new workforce to support schools and improve mental health provision. The first wave of staff are being recruited for training now, and we have 210 applicants for the first wave of places.

T8. To mark the 30th World AIDS Day on Saturday, will the Government commit to a more ambitious, but completely achievable, target of ending all new HIV infections by 2030? (907882)

I join the right hon. Gentleman in celebrating World Aids Day and ensuring that we redouble our commitment to making sure that we do everything we can. I will certainly look into the precise commitment that he asks for to make sure not only that it is deliverable but that we work not just here but around the world to end this scourge.

Everyone in this place has lost someone close to them to the terrible and terrifying disease that is cancer. How will the NHS 10-year plan help to improve detection rates?

The Prime Minister will set out our ambition that three quarters of all cancers will be diagnosed early, up from just half today. Our cancer survival figures are our best ever, but we do not have world-class outcomes yet, as we must and want to. That is why early diagnosis will be absolutely at the heart of the NHS long-term plan—for instance, in radically overhauling the screening programmes that the Secretary of State mentioned earlier.

I do slightly worry about the staying power of some colleagues. I will not say who, because it would be unkind, but there was a Member I was about to call who has beetled out of the Chamber. People have got to be a bit patient.

South Tyneside District Hospital recently surpassed targets for waiting times, yet this Government’s forced cuts under the guise of sustainability and transformation plans have left my constituents fundraising to fight the downgrading of key services in court next month. Why is the Secretary of State presiding over this destruction by stealth of our high-performing hospital and the NHS?

Of course, the STP proposals have to be clinically led and consulted on and discussed with local people. It is right that the allocation of services and exactly how they are configured locally is led locally, so that we can get the best services to people in Tyneside and across the country.

In England, over 80,000 people have a stroke each year and about 20% of them die within a year. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me, the House and my constituents in Corby and East Northamptonshire that he not only wants to drive down that figure but has a plan to do so?

Yes, I can. I feel very passionately about stroke and the impact that it has on people’s lives and the health service. We are working very closely with the Stroke Association to develop the new national plan for stroke in England as part of the long-term plan. That plan will build on the success of the Department’s stroke strategy, which ended last month, and look at how we can improve stroke care across the pathway. It will also, critically, include prevention so that we can protect more people from stroke in the first place.

Despite the Government’s reassurances on the new NHS pay deal, it has left one of my constituents actually taking less money home at the end of the month and being required to pay money back. When I wrote to the Department, the Minister had the audacity to simply respond with a generic factsheet. Does he think this acceptable, and if not, will he give a meaningful reply to my constituent, who has done 30 years in the NHS?

Yes, of course. We value everybody who works in the NHS. I would love the hon. Lady to take up this individual case with me directly, and I am very happy to look into it.

I have recently been contacted by a constituent who works as a paediatrician in a nearby hospital. Last Friday, tragically, a baby died in their ward. The cause of death is unknown. Owing to the lack of a coroner service at the weekend, the baby had to stay for three nights with breathing tubes fixed in. For the parents, these are the last memories of their child. What steps will the Minister be taking to guarantee that the seven days NHS requirement also applies to coroners and histopathologists?

My heart goes out to the parents of this child, my hon. Friend’s constituents, as I am sure it does from everybody in this House. Of course I will happily take up this individual case. But she raises the broader point, too. I am meeting the Justice Secretary on this topic to discuss what further we can do. It is technically a matter for the Ministry of Justice, but I understand entirely why we need to work together to make progress.

Is not the Secretary of State alarmed that fake psychiatrist Zholia Alemi was revalidated in 2013 under the supposedly strengthened revalidation process? Why did the Government not act on the findings of the Sir Keith Pearson report in January last year, which pointed out this exact weakness in the system?

The hon. Gentleman raised that matter with me last week. He knows that the Government take it very seriously and that we are asking the General Medical Council for an immediate review of that case, but I am happy to meet him to discuss it further.

I welcome the new early diagnosis ambition for cancer, but does the Minister agree that for the people of West Oxfordshire, this is about delivery and having the people available to implement the strategy that he has worked so hard to produce?

My hon. Friend is spot on, as always. Just last week, I spent time with the heads of all 19 cancer alliances in England, which are doing so much to deliver the strategy on the ground, including his Thames Valley cancer alliance, led by Bruno Holthof of Churchill Hospital in Oxford. The alliance was clear that we need more people across the board in “team cancer”, as I call it, and that is right. We especially need more radiographers, and we are working through that with Health Education England in the beyond 2021 plan.

Today’s report on the amount of police time spent dealing with emergency mental health cases without support from mental health professionals is echoed by police in my constituency, who say that it takes up almost 40% of their time. Will the Government recognise that this crisis should not be dealt with by police officers, far less in cells, and sort it out?

First, I pay tribute to the work that the police do in dealing with people who are in mental health crisis. They view it as part of their core work, but clearly they should not be picking up the slack where services do not exist. I am working closely with the police service and other interested parties to ensure that we have sufficient crisis care, to enable the police to discharge their responsibilities adequately and in a safe way. We will continue to do that.

My constituent Alice Sloman died during what should have been a routine MRI scan, following complications with the general anaesthetic that had been administered to her. Will the Minister agree to meet me and Alice’s parents to discuss the possibility of people, particularly those with existing conditions, having routine heart checks before such procedures?

The Government express sincere condolences to my hon. Friend’s constituents. I would of course be happy to meet him and his constituents.

Will the Minister support Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School in training more dentists and encourage use of the underspend in the south-west dental spending pool?

Yes. I would be interested to hear more about anything that can increase access to dentistry in the hon. Gentleman’s part of the world.

Next year marks 10 years since the passing of the Autism Act. What more can the Government do to support people who suffer from autism?

To mark the fact that it will be 10 years since the Autism Act was passed, we will start a formal review of that piece of legislation and the autism strategy, to ensure that they remain fit for purpose and heading in the right direction.[Official Report, 29 November 2018, Vol. 650, c. 4MC.]

My constituents Kirsteen and Wilma Ord have had their lives blighted by the Primodos hormone pregnancy drug. The review that the Government undertook was a whitewash, and now the further review, led by Baroness Cumberlege, will focus only on people in England. She has said that she will consult groups in Scotland, but drug regulation is reserved. What will the Minister do to promise that my constituents will not be let down again?

I met Baroness Cumberlege just last week, and I know she would be open to hearing representations from constituents in Scotland, to add to her understanding of this issue. We are determined to make full use of that review, so that we can learn lessons from this tragedy.