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Health and Social Care: Leadership and Management

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 14 June 2022

8. What steps he is taking to raise the quality of leadership and management across the health and social care sectors. (900471)

16. What steps he is taking to raise the quality of leadership and management across the health and social care sectors. (900480)

In health and care, strong leadership can make the difference between life and death. I have been clear that we can accept only the highest possible standards and that in some cases poor leadership has been tolerated for too long. That is why I have accepted in full the recommendations of General Sir Gordon Messenger’s independent review and will set out a delivery plan to begin what I think will be the biggest shake-up in health and social care leadership in a generation.

Bearing in mind that the NHS will receive approximately £180 billion of taxpayers’ money this year, improving leadership and management in the NHS is extremely important, and nowhere more so than in the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Despite the trust obtaining £312 million from the Treasury to improve accident and emergency services, a lack of coherent leadership has resulted in no decision being taken as to how the money will be spent. With rising costs in the construction industry, that is of great concern to us. Will the Secretary of State intervene with our local hospital trust to make sure that the money is spent as expeditiously and quickly as possible?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of leadership. I am pleased to tell him that my Department has just received the strategic outline case for his local A&E’s Future Fit programme, which is currently being reviewed. As he undoubtedly knows, the business case process is led by the trust and is already supported by some early funding; I understand that the trust aims to present the full business case by 2023, with construction starting in the same year and to be completed by 2028. The Minister for Health will shortly visit Shropshire and will meet my hon. Friend and other colleagues.

Orthopaedic surgery at the Princess Royal Hospital has still not restarted since the pandemic. That is causing huge suffering for those who have been waiting for surgery, in some cases for several years. A hip replacement is transformative to quality of life and reduces other care needs, but orthopaedic surgeons continue to be paid despite not operating, and no alternative is being offered to patients—they are not even being given an expected operation date. Will implementing the Messenger review require NHS leadership to be more accountable to the public so that decisions such as refusing to restart much-needed surgery can be challenged?

I thank my hon. Friend for her tireless campaigning on the issue, which she brought up recently in the Health and Social Care Committee. I am pleased to tell her that elective orthopaedic surgery at the Princess Royal Hospital will resume from 20 June.

My hon. Friend is right about the importance of the Messenger review. There were many examples of excellent leadership in it, but sadly there were also examples of poor leadership, including bullying and blame cultures. That is why it is essential that we have this huge reform.

As hard as all hospital leaders and managers work, sometimes something goes wrong on their watch. What follows is one such example.

On Friday, I met Joanna, a lovely mum of two young children, who was diagnosed with secondary cancer three months ago. Since then, she has been passed from pillar to post and has received no treatment at all. Unfortunately, she is now receiving palliative care. What Joanna wants more than anything is to stop what happened to her happening to anyone else. Will the Secretary of State personally look into Joanna’s case to make sure that she finally gets the treatment she urgently needs, and that no one else is failed by the system as Joanna has been?

Yes, of course I can give the hon. Lady that commitment. I am very sorry to hear about Joanna; I think of her, her loved ones and her two children. I will absolutely look personally into the case. I hope that the hon. Lady agrees that where we see poor outcomes, it is important to make sure that we have the best possible leadership in place.

I have already raised the issue of the governance at Walsall Manor Hospital. I welcome the Messenger-Pollard review—the Secretary of State will know that there is also a report called “The snowy white peaks of the NHS”, which says roughly the same thing—but I have been fobbed off because the leadership at Walsall and Wolverhampton remains the same. Could he look into why Walsall Manor should not have its own chief executive?

These are important issues, and I have discussed this with the right hon. Lady. I will take another look at the management of Walsall Manor.

Last week, a BBC Wales documentary reported on the shocking state of Wrexham Maelor Hospital and the NHS in north Wales, which is led by the Welsh Labour Government and was in special measures before covid. The average wait for referred treatment in England is 13 weeks, but in Wales it is 24 weeks. In the words of Nuffield Trust, the

“treatment…may as well not be there”.

Wrexham deserves better, so does the Minister agree that the Welsh Labour Government need to vastly improve the NHS in north Wales before more lives are lost?

I do of course agree with my hon. Friend. There are huge challenges for the NHS here in England, but as she has highlighted, the challenges are much greater in Wales because of how the Labour Government there neglected the NHS, way before the pandemic as well as during it. When it comes to leadership, although the Messenger review was commissioned for England, I think they would do well to learn some lessons from it.

Operose Health is one of the biggest employers in the primary care sector. When it bought up 70 surgeries across England, including in Hammersmith and Fulham, the Government were warned that this would put patient care at risk in pursuit of profit. That is what Operose’s US parent company, Centene, is notorious for. Now that the Secretary of State has evidence of Operose employing half the average number of GPs per patient, and of not reading clinical correspondence for six months, what is he going to do about it?

The hon. Gentleman might know that in 2007 the then Labour Government changed the law to allow takeovers such as that to happen. He might want to reflect on that. In terms of local management, there are consistent high standards that need to be met locally, and local commissioners should be made aware of what he has just said.