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NHS Capacity for Winter 2020-21

Volume 684: debated on Tuesday 17 November 2020

The Prime Minister has announced £3 billion to support NHS capacity this winter. Among other things, that money funds our Nightingale hospitals, so that surge capacity is available, and the NHS’s ongoing access to additional independent sector capacity. It also supports the safe discharge of patients, helping to reduce pressure on beds. In addition, £450 million of capital funding has been announced to upgrade and expand A&Es across the country, to help prepare the NHS for winter, and that money is already being spent.

The £3 million announced to increase winter capacity in Dudley is hugely welcome, but will my hon. Friend also look at Dudley’s bids for capital funding for a hybrid theatre and reconfiguration of critical care? Will he join me on a visit to Russells Hall, so that he can see the transformative effect that those projects would have on care for patients in Dudley South?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s constituents will benefit from £3 million to increase capacity at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley as part of the investment to upgrade A&Es ahead of winter. Future NHS capital spending will, of course, be determined at the upcoming spending review, but once our settlement has been confirmed with the Treasury, we will consider carefully how projects are prioritised within it. In the meantime, I encourage the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust to discuss its proposals with NHS England and NHS Improvement. I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this, because I know how hard he campaigns on this issue, and I would be delighted to take him up on the offer of a visit when I am able to.

The NHS will only survive the winter if its workforce are valued and supported. The evidence from the British Medical Association to the Health and Social Care Committee this morning was stark. So does the Minister understand how demoralising it is for staff to hear reports that they may face yet another two-year pay freeze? I asked those on the Government Benches to rule this out last week. I got no answer, so I ask them again today: will they rule out a pay freeze for NHS staff?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is quite right to highlight the amazing work that our NHS and social care workforce have done throughout this pandemic, as they do every year, and I pay tribute to them for that. As he will know, the NHS agrees with its staff multi-year pay deals set by independent recommendations, and we continue with that process.