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NHS Workforce

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

2. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the NHS has the workforce that it needs to meet the objectives of its 10-year plan. (910023)

The long-term plan sets out how we will make the NHS a world-class employer and ensure that the NHS has the people that it needs. The NHS, led by Baroness Harding, is engaging with people across the sector to develop a people plan. That plan will set out how the challenges of supply and demand reform can be met, and it will be published in the spring.

I thank the Minister for that response. In Cornwall, we have set up the Health and Social Care Academy, and we use the apprenticeship levy to enable local people to train within the NHS service or social care wherever they want to. However, there are many restrictions around the levy, and I wonder if the Minister will meet me and others to discuss how the levy can actually be about training and supporting people into the NHS, rather than just restrictions about paying fees.

The apprenticeship levy was obviously introduced to cover the training and assessment costs of apprenticeships at a rate that would meet employee demand. I recognise some of the challenges that there are, and I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the issues that he has raised.

19.   The NHS 10-year plan in Plymouth will be delivered not only by NHS staff but by social enterprise staff. Those staff who work for social enterprise Livewell in Plymouth have had difficulty accessing the NHS pay rise and the NHS pension uplift. Will the Minister agree to meet me and Livewell’s staff so that we can resolve this issue, to ensure that all staff who work for a social enterprise receive the pensions they deserve? (910042)

The hon. Gentleman knows that I wrote to him on 20 March on this issue, and I outlined that officials from DHSC had contacted the scheme administrator about the issues with Livewell. I can confirm that the members there would still be dealt with in the way set out prior to the implementation date, and I am happy to meet him.

The best way that Kettering General Hospital could deliver the NHS’s 10-year plan would be to have the funding for an urgent care hub. I thank the Hospitals Minister for visiting recently. What can he do to ensure that that project is delivered?

I was delighted to visit Kettering and to meet the chief executive and the chairman of the trust again. They made very strong representations. The representations by my hon. Friend and the trust have been heard, and he knows that they are at the forefront of my mind.

Changes to the pensions allowance are particularly impacting consultants in their willingness to do additional shifts, or indeed stay in their roles, so what discussions has the Minister had with the Chancellor about the effect of the changes to pension allowances on the retention of consultants in the NHS?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have both had conversations with the Treasury and the Chancellor, and there are ongoing discussions.

The Government have done well to get more medical students into general practice, but we are not doing quite so well at retaining GPs later on. What more can we do to make sure that GPs stay in general practice, so that more of our constituents can go and see a doctor more easily?

NHS Improvement has a number of retention schemes in place, for GPs and for nurses, to look at why some people are leaving. The interim plan being developed by Baroness Harding has an employer of excellence work stream, which will report on a number of potential issues.

May I just take a moment, on behalf of the Opposition Front Bench team, to thank the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) for all his work? We found him a decent, fair-minded Minister, and I wish to pass on my personal thanks for the work that he did on the children of alcoholics agenda.

We have 100,000 vacancies across the NHS. The Brexit mess means that we have fewer EU nurses and health visitors. Across the NHS, voluntary resignations are up 55% since 2011, and the professional development budgets have been cut by £250 million. Does the Minister agree that for Dido Harding’s review to be taken seriously, those cuts to continuing professional development must be reversed?

As the hon. Gentleman heard me say earlier, Baroness Harding is developing the implementation plan, which will then feed into the final implementation plan published after the comprehensive spending review. The cuts, as he describes them, are not cuts. He knows that we are increasing the budget for the NHS in real terms and in cash terms up to 2023-24.

The Minister is responsible for workforce, but does not seem to understand that training budgets have been cut. Baroness Harding’s review will only be taken seriously if it is backed up by real investment.

Outsourcing and transferring of staff, whether to wholly owned subsidiaries or the privatisation of clinical services, further undermines staff morale and creates a more fragmented workforce. The Secretary of State went to the Health and Social Care Committee and said no more privatisations on his watch, yet cancer scanning services in Oxford are being privatised. Will the Minister reverse those privatisations, or can we simply not believe a word the Secretary of State says?

The hon. Gentleman can believe everything my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says. He has delivered on his promise to work with the NHS to deliver a long-term plan, to deliver the funding that will make it possible, and to deliver the workforce that will ensure the plan is not undermined.