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NHS Appointments

Volume 731: debated on Tuesday 25 April 2023

We are investing at least £1.5 billion to create an additional 50 million GP appointments by 2024. To improve access to hospital appointments we are giving patients choice about their care and offering alternative providers, with shorter waiting times, to long-waiters. We are also investing £2.3 billion in community diagnostic services, which will improve access to tests, checks and scans. One hundred community diagnostic centres are already open, and they have delivered more than 3.6 million additional tests.

If we have a power cut in north Scotland, people get a text message from SSE saying that engineers are coming out and that they will have power by, say, 3 o’clock. Missed NHS appointments are a waste of resources. I understand that some dental practices in England offer some sort of reminder service, but would it not be helpful if a leaf could be taken out of SSE’s book so that everyone with an NHS appointment receives a text to remind them, “You have a test at 10 o’clock tomorrow,” or possibly, “There is a big queue and there are delays, so your appointment has been changed to 4 o’clock”?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. Better communication with patients was one of the five principles at the heart of our elective recovery plan, which was published in February. We recommend that all providers use appointment reminders, often through text messages. As he suggests, in some cases that has been shown to reduce “did not attends” by up to 80%. Providers have told us that they see better results when communication is two-way, for example, where patients can reply to cancel their own appointments. Alongside that, we also launched the My Planned Care website, so that patients can access information ahead of their planned appointment, and of course we are doing a lot more with the NHS app. This is just one of the ways in which we are putting patients in control of their own care.

I am the father to two beautiful daughters, Becky and Eris, one of whom was conceived through in vitro fertilisation. Being a father is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I was very proud to see IVF services reinstated in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, following a campaign that I supported and helped to lead. What plans does the Minister have to ensure that IVF services and appointments are routinely offered across the NHS, in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance?

You do, too. Mine were not through IVF, but as a Back Bencher I also campaigned on IVF issues, because there was a postcode lottery on that around the country. That still exists to some extent and I would be happy to work with my hon. Friend to make sure that wherever people are in this country they can get IVF services.

The Conservatives have cut 2,000 GPs since 2015 and now too many patients cannot get an appointment when they need one: 3,000 patients are waiting a month to see a GP in Dover; 3,500 are doing so in Mansfield; 3,500 are doing so in North Lincolnshire; and 5,000 are waiting a month in Swindon. So why will the Government not adopt Labour’s plan to double the number of medical school places, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status, so that patients have the doctors they need to get treated on time?

I recognise the pressures on the system, but Labour has spent the non-dom money 10 times over. We are taking real action on this issue: real-terms spending on general practice is up by more than a fifth since 2016; as I said, we are investing £1.5 billion to create an additional 50 million GP appointments; we have recruited more than 25,000 additional primary care staff; and there are 2,167 more doctors in general practice; and we have the highest number ever in training.