The reimbursement of travel costs for NHS staff is covered by the NHS terms and conditions, which are agreed jointly by employers and NHS trade unions. The terms and conditions set out the process for reviewing the rate, and that process includes reviewing fluctuations in fuel prices.
Motorists across the country have seen the cost of fuel increase by as much as 60p per litre since this time last year. Fuel costs are penalising the many NHS staff who treat patients in the community for simply doing their job. The current reimbursement rate of 56p per mile drops to 20p after staff have travelled 3,500 miles, and that has not been adjusted since 2014. Does the Secretary of State agree that if the rate of reimbursement does not rise in line with prices at the pump, those staff can easily obtain jobs in the acute sector, where they will not face the extra fuel costs? Given that we want more people to be treated in the community, that would surely be a catastrophe both for staff and for patients at home.
This is an important issue, and it affects different parts of the workforce in different ways. The 56p is higher than the rate approved by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and, as the hon. Lady said, it drops to 20p after 3,500 miles have been travelled. Of course, the Government are taking other measures more widely in their fiscal response to the cost of living, such as cutting fuel duty, but there is a review mechanism in respect of the NHS specifically, which involves looking at these issues in the round.