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NHS Capacity

Volume 701: debated on Tuesday 19 October 2021

The NHS will receive an extra £5.4 billion for the second half of this financial year to support its response to covid-19. This includes an extra £1 billion to help to tackle the treatment backlog and £478 million to continue the enhanced hospital discharge programme, freeing up beds. This brings the total extra investment in health and care services so far this year, during the pandemic, to £34 billion.

My wonderful local charity York Against Cancer has been approached by York Hospital regarding the part funding of a da Vinci robotic cancer surgery system. This revolutionary machine allows for fewer and smaller incisions, meaning faster patient recovery, shorter hospital stays and, ultimately, better and faster cancer care. Will the Secretary of State assure me that he fully supports local collaboration, wherever needed, to introduce these machines and that he is doing everything he can to roll out this new technology across our health service?

I assure my hon. Friend that cancer care, whether provided through these machines, diagnostics or in any other way, remains an absolute priority for the Government. Colleagues will understand that some cancers were not diagnosed during the pandemic, and I join him in congratulating York Against Cancer on the work it is doing. I would like to learn more about this machine and to see how we can make it work throughout the NHS.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer and welcome the extra investment he outlined, but too often we talk about catch up in terms of physical health. What is he doing to catch up on mental health, particularly mental health beds?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of mental health. He will know that one of the unintended consequences of the lockdowns is that, sadly, there were more cases of mental ill health. The NHS long-term plan commits to increasing investment in mental health at least as fast as investment in physical health, with at least £2.3 billion of extra spending on mental health by 2023-24, which I hope he welcomes.

Local general practitioners report that they are working as hard as they ever have, with full lists of appointments, but constituents are still unhappy that they cannot get appointments quickly or in the format they would like. Is there more the Government could do to help local GPs across the country to give patients the service that they want and that GPs want to provide?

We are hugely grateful for the tireless efforts of GPs and their teams throughout the pandemic. In our comprehensive new plan, which we announced last week, we are including a £250 million winter access fund to support GPs and make it easier for them to see and speak to their patients. A record number of GPs began training in 2021, and we are committed to increasing the number to 4,000 each year.

I start by paying my respects to Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire, who were sadly taken from us far too soon.

I welcome the Minister for Care and Mental Health, the hon. Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), to her new brief. I look forward to working with her.

We are all too aware of the growing demand for support across the NHS, but all too often mental health treatment is forgotten. With up to 10 million more people thought to require treatment as a result of the pandemic, with waiting lists soaring and with beds being cut, we need more than just warm words from the Government. Labour will guarantee treatment, not just an assessment, starting within a month, and we will recruit 8,500 new staff so that 1 million additional people can receive the timely treatment they so deserve. That is what came out of our conference from our party leader. There was nothing of equal value from the Prime Minister, bar recycled old pledges and money spent four times over. Why?

Sorry, Mr Speaker. I did not realise the hon. Lady had finished. What she calls old pledges are hugely significant, and they continue to play a significant role. The NHS long-term plan, as I said a moment ago, has £2.3 billion extra each year by 2023-24. That extra investment will support 380,000 more adults and 345,000 more children.

The hon. Lady is, of course, right that the number of cases of mental ill health has sadly grown during the pandemic, which is one of the reasons we published a mental health recovery action plan with an additional £500 million this financial year.

NHS dentistry is facing a capacity crisis. There is a huge backlog of urgent care and treatment, which is leaving many dentists overwhelmed. Patients, including those in Pontefract and in towns across the country, are now unable to get routine check-ups, which is making the urgent care crisis worse and creating a vicious spiral. Will the Health Secretary ask his Ministers to meet dentist groups and patient groups in Yorkshire to hear about the urgent crisis they are facing and set out an urgent plan to deal with the huge capacity crisis in NHS dentistry?

The right hon. Lady is right to raise the issue of access to dentistry for her constituents and those across England. Dentists have done a fantastic job faced with the challenges of the pandemic. We all knew that those were very real for dentists, who, of course, could not see their patients in the normal way, and they have done everything they can to help on that. The measures that have recently been taken—the review by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency on infection prevention and control—will help. Reduced access has been a major cause of the backlog. We are also working with our colleagues in the NHS to see what more we can do.

All Devon’s hospitals are on red alert, partly because of capacity issues caused by ongoing covid cases. Why does the Secretary of State think the UK now has the highest covid infection, hospitalisation and death rates in western Europe?

First, may I take this opportunity to congratulate all the health and care workers across Devon on the fantastic work they are doing? The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have set out clearly their approach to dealing with the pandemic and that we are very much focused on vaccinations, which are working, building a wall of defence, treatments and testing.

Further to the last question on NHS dentistry from the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), we are in a difficult situation across North Yorkshire, where there is no NHS dentist availability across the whole of Thirsk and Malton. It will take the NHS two years to recommission the service in Helmsley—the closed practice in Helmsley—and the Thirsk practice has just closed its doors with its current list of patients. Will my right hon. Friend set out exactly what we can do to increase the availability of NHS dentistry?

Again, my hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. As we have just heard from other hon. Members, there is a real issue with dentistry across England, including in North Yorkshire, and we know how the pandemic has had an impact on that. Dentists have tried to do the best they can in those circumstances. The changes we are making to infection prevention and control will help. We are looking at further measures, and I understand that my hon. Friend will be meeting the Minister shortly to discuss his issues in North Yorkshire carefully.