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Future of the NHS

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 19 February 2019

We are increasing the NHS budget by £20 billion, or £33 billion in cash terms, over the next five years. This major investment will support the NHS to continue to deliver world-class care. The long-term plan set out a vision for the NHS, ensuring that every penny will be well spent.

I thank the Secretary of State very much for his answer. Local accident and emergency departments, such as at County Hospital in Stafford, are absolutely vital for the long-term plan of the NHS. What can he do to ensure that funding is there for these departments because they need an awful lot of block funding and not so much payment by procedure—or payment as you go?

My hon. Friend, who is an advocate for Stafford beyond compare and an advocate for its A&E—he has personally put much effort into saving it and ensuring that it is in good shape—rightly makes the point that paying per person who comes through the door does not accurately reflect the costs of providing A&E, so we are moving to a much greater proportion of block funding for A&Es, with a smaller element that varies according to the costs of serving everybody, to ensure that the finances follow the need.

The latest figures show that more than one in five patients visiting Leighton Hospital A&E in Crewe has had to wait for more than four hours, yet instead of receiving support, the trust has been financially penalised, unable to access capital support to fund improvements to its A&E, while at the same time losing out on the performance element of the provider sustainability fund. Can the Minister explain how the Government are supporting Leighton Hospital?

We are supporting Leighton Hospital through the delivery of the long-term plan and the extra £20 billion—£33 billion in cash terms—the first £6 billion of which comes on stream in April, in two months’ time. It is true that a record number of people are going to A&E. We have to make sure that the record numbers being treated within the four-hour target are supported, but that we also support hospitals to do yet more.

In Telford, we have been waiting five years for the chance to ask the Secretary of State to call in for review a highly controversial plan called Future Fit. We now have that chance, and the Secretary of State has been really generous with his time in listening to MPs’ concerns. The local council, however, has still not yet made any submission to the Secretary of State. Can he confirm that without that submission he cannot call in that scheme for review?

My hon. Friend has made the case very powerfully for the future of Telford Hospital, and I have enjoyed working with her, but it is true that the call-in powers that I have as Secretary of State can be exercised only when a scheme is referred to me by a local council. Should that happen, I will consider it very carefully.

Will the Secretary of State now come clean with the House and admit that the Lansley Act, which fragmented the NHS into tiny pieces, caused huge inefficiencies; and that successive Governments, including the one of whom he is a member, have starved the NHS of resources, which has caused a lot of the problems that our constituents face in increased waiting times and increased pressure on staff?

We care about securing the future of the NHS. That is why we are putting £20 billion extra into it over the next five years—£33 billion extra in cash terms. Yes, we will consider proposals being made for legislative changes, but what we care about is making sure that the NHS gets all the support it needs, and not just political nonsense.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the vital components to ensure the long-term future of the NHS is community hospitals? Will he meet me to discuss what can be done to recruit more qualified staff, so that beds at the Portland Community Hospital can be reopened?

I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that, because community hospitals have a vital role to play in the future of the NHS as more care is delivered close to home.

It was not insignificant, what happened between ’97 and 2010 under a Labour Government. They trebled the amount of money going to the national health service. It was a system of hypothecation, whereby a 1% increase in national insurance went directly to the national health service, and nobody else fiddled with it.

It is unusual, but I am delighted to be able to agree with the thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s question. As he knows, we both come from Nottinghamshire mining stock, and it is surprising that we do not agree on more, but we do agree on the importance of having a properly funded NHS. That is why we have put the largest ever, longest ever cash injection into the NHS, because we care that it should be fit for the future.