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Non-covid-19 Healthcare Treatment

Volume 684: debated on Tuesday 17 November 2020

What steps his Department is taking to support the provision of non-covid-19 healthcare treatment. (908881)

What steps his Department is taking to support the provision of non-covid-19 healthcare treatment. (908889)

The Government are supporting the NHS’s ambition to continue to restore elective services for non-covid patients, while of course recognising the pressure on services from covid-19 infection control, with September statistics showing services already restored to about 80% of last year’s levels. Some £2.9 billion of additional funding has been made available from 1 October to manage ongoing covid-19 pressures, alongside recovering non-covid activity levels.

I thank my hon. Friend for his response. Given the difficulties faced by the NHS because of covid-19, what considerations are being given to additional initiatives or the management of existing resources to address patient demand and break the backlog of non-covid-related treatments, such as diagnostic interventions for cancer?

The NHS is working hard to maintain elective activity as far as possible during the second wave with extra funding, as has been set out. As shown in published September data, hospitals are carrying out more than 1 million routine appointments and operations per week, with around three times the levels of elective patients admitted to hospitals than in April, with many hospitals innovating to get through their lists. For example, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and West Berkshire sustainability and transformation partnership has set up additional bespoke cataract units to deliver services. In addition, we have been making use of independent sector sites to assist the NHS with almost 1 million NHS patient appointments taking place within those facilities.

One adverse consequence of the first lockdown was that many people failed to seek treatment because they were afraid of the virus, but due to good planning and hard work, the staff of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are able to treat covid patients while still undertaking the normal work of the hospital. Does my hon. Friend agree that the people of Broadland should continue to seek medical assistance when they need it, confident in the knowledge that it will be provided in a covid-safe and effective manner?

I share my hon. Friend’s fulsome praise of the staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the work that they are doing. They have a strong champion in him. Indeed, I pay tribute to all the health and social care staff who have worked so magnificently throughout the pandemic. I can wholeheartedly agree with everything he says. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been clear throughout this pandemic that anyone who needs medical help should continue to seek it in the knowledge that they will be treated in a safe and effective manner appropriate to their needs. To put it bluntly, it is a case of help us to help you.

For cancer care, we are still dealing with the backlog from the first wave, but we are now hearing of treatments being cancelled during the second wave. Extremely vulnerable immuno-compromised cancer patients need covid-free wards and staff need regular testing. Similar backlogs to the first wave could be the difference between life and death. I ask this at every Health questions but am yet to receive a persuasive answer. What will the Government do differently in order to restore cancer services?

I am grateful to the shadow Minister, who always asks measured and sensible questions. He is right to ask that particular question, but I am very happy for him to raise with me any specific incidents of where urgent cancer care is being cancelled in the current situation. We have worked extremely hard, as has the NHS, to ensure that treatments such as that and emergency and urgent treatment can continue. He asked what we are doing differently. We have learned a huge amount, as has the whole country, over the past six to nine months. We have increased capacity in our hospitals, which is why, with the measures that we have taken, we can continue far more surgery and far more treatments, particularly cancer treatments, than we could in the first wave.

Unfortunately, we do finish at quarter past 12, so I will start topical questions, slightly late, with Steve McCabe.