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Written Statements

Volume 669: debated on Monday 13 January 2020

Written Statements

Monday 13 January 2020

Health and Social Care

Departmental Update

As set out clearly in our manifesto, the NHS is this Government’s No.1 domestic priority. We are supporting the NHS through our historic funding settlement, which will see the NHS budget increase by £33.9 billion within the next five years. This will soon be enshrined into law.

I recently set out my priorities for the system[1]. This statement highlights the work that has already begun to deliver on these priorities, including our major manifesto commitments of:

50,000 more nurses;

40 new hospitals over the next decade;

ending unfair hospital car parking charges;

and 50 million more GP appointments.


Work has already begun to deliver our manifesto commitment on free hospital parking for those who need it. This Government recently announced that from April 2020, disabled people, frequent out-patient attenders, parents of sick children staying overnight, and staff working night shifts will be able to access free hospital car parking. This change will benefit thousands of NHS patients and visitors in England and mean that across the country we have a consistent approach whereby those with the greatest need will no longer have to pay for parking. We will also consider car parking capacity across the country, and how improved technology will reduce burdens for hospitals, and take away stress for visitors.


Community pharmacies play a crucial role in helping people stay healthy and prevent pressure on hospitals. In October 2019, as part of our ‘pharmacy first approach’, the community pharmacist consultation service was introduced. This means people with minor illnesses or who need medicine urgently have been referred to local pharmacies. More than 100,000 patients have had appointments with expert pharmacists in the last 10 weeks, relieving pressure on GPs and A&E apartments.


As we begin 2020, the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, we are embarking on the biggest nursing recruitment drive in decades, backed by a new universal support package. Nursing students on courses from September 2020 will now benefit from guaranteed, additional support of at least £5,000 a year to help with living costs, some students could be eligible for up to £8,000 per year. It is expected to benefit more than 35,000 students every year. The funding will not have to be repaid by recipients.

The new year’s honours list for 2020 celebrated the incredible work taking place in the health and social care sector all around the UK. This included senior leaders Professor Dame Sally Davies (Chief Medical Officer between 2011 and 2019), Simon Stevens (NHS Chief Executive) and Lyn Romeo (Chief Social Worker).


We will use frontline technology to improve patients’ experience, provide flexible working for clinicians, and help save lives.

This Government have announced that it will provide £40 million to reduce NHS staff login times, tackling one of the main technology frustrations facing NHS staff. Currently, many NHS staff have to log in to multiple computer programmes when tending to a patient, with each programme requiring its own login details. Some staff may need to log in to as many as 15 different systems. This outdated technology slows down and frustrates staff and prevents them from giving patients their full attention and the care they deserve. Harnessing the best technology will improve care for patients and improve the burden on our staff.

To further improve the digital capability of NHS trusts, we will set up a new ‘digital aspirant’ programme. This will provide funding over several years to assist with digital transformation projects so that trusts can provide safe, high-quality and efficient care.

Additionally, this Government have announced that a further £4.5 million will be given to local authorities to develop digital adult social care projects to support the most vulnerable in society to live independently for longer and improve information sharing across the NHS and social care.



Work and Pensions

Local Housing Allowance

I am announcing that from April 2020 Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates will be increased in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI), ending the freeze to the local housing allowance and delivering on the manifesto commitment to end the benefit freeze.

The Rent Officers Orders for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit, which provide for the increase, will be laid in the House later today and a corresponding provision will implement the changes for Northern Ireland

This increase will mean the majority of people in receipt of housing support in the private rented sector will see their housing support increase, on average benefiting by around £10 per month.

This Government continue to spend around £95 billion a year on working age benefits, including around £23 billion to help people with their housing costs.

Ending the freeze to LHA rates ensures we are continuing to support the most vulnerable in society. And, as announced at the spending round in September 2019 there will be an additional £40 million in discretionary housing payments for 2020-21, to help affordability in the private rented sector.

My Department will continue to work with colleagues across Government on housing, including working closely with MHCLG to find ways to reduce homelessness and meet the cost of living in rented accommodation through good housing supply and a welfare system that supports the vulnerable.