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Clinical Leadership

Volume 618: debated on Tuesday 20 December 2016

As we wish each other a merry Christmas, the whole House will also this morning remember the people of Berlin as they face up to yesterday’s horrific suspected terrorist attack. Germany and its capital Berlin have been beacons of freedom and tolerance in modern times, and all our thoughts and prayers are with them today.

Evidence from all over the world suggests that higher standards of care for patients relate directly to the quality of clinical leadership, which was why last month I announced a number of measures to increase the number of doctors and nurses in leadership roles in the NHS.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his response. Clinicians in Telford have been showing real leadership by rejecting a proposal to close a brand new women and children’s unit, and elements of our emergency services. The quango responsible for this idea has spent £3 million and taken three years to come up with the proposal, which has been rejected by local people and clinicians. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and my local colleagues to bring an end to this farce, and to ensure that we do not continue in limbo any longer?

I recognise the extent of my hon. Friend’s campaigning on this issue in Telford, and that she expresses the concerns of many of her constituents. As she knows, service changes must be driven locally and must have the support of local GP commissioners. She will also know that the actual situation, very frustratingly, has not led to consensus between clinicians in different parts of Telford and Shropshire. I agree that the process has taken much too long, and I am more than happy to meet her and to try to bring this situation to a close as quickly as possible.

In a year when the Health Secretary has spent quite a lot of time knocking clinicians, it is good to hear him speak so positively about them. After four years in the job, what responsibility does he accept for the lack of suitably qualified individuals—not just clinicians—who are prepared to take on the top jobs in the NHS on a permanent basis?

I will tell the hon. Lady what I take responsibility for: more doctors, more nurses and more funding than ever before in the history of the NHS. We know that the highest standards are often achieved when there is strong clinical leadership. Only 54% of managers in this country are clinicians, compared with 74% in Canada and 94% in Sweden. That is why it is right that we do everything we can to encourage more clinicians into leadership roles.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the clinical leadership involved in the Getting It Right First Time initiative is important, not only because it will save £1.5 billion, which could be put back into patient care, but because patients will be in less pain and will end up having fewer revision operations, and some will even survive treatment that they would not otherwise have survived?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I thank him for bringing Professor Tim Briggs to see me to explain just how superb this programme is. Infection rates for orthopaedic surgery vary between one in 20 patients in some trusts to one in 500 in others. Getting this right can transform care for patients and save money at the same time.

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments about Berlin, my one-time home.

Does the Secretary of State accept that we have the best clinical leaders anywhere in the world? The challenge facing the NHS is not one of clinical leadership, or the dedication or skill of staff, but one of chronic underfunding by this Conservative Government.

We do indeed have superb clinical leaders, such as Marianne Griffiths at Worthing, which was recently given an outstanding rating. We also have superb non-clinical leaders, such as David Dalton at Salford Royal. I would gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he is worried about funding, why did he stand in the election on a platform that would have seen the NHS have £1.3 billion less this year?

Will the Secretary of State ensure that clinical leaders are able to apply important techniques from other disciplines, such as lean production, which can drive up productivity?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Clinical leadership is important, but so is openness to the skills of other industries—particularly engineering skills, with which he is very familiar—that can help us to get processes right so that we improve care and safety for patients.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if the board of Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust agrees to establish a teaching hospital today, that will enable the trust to train its doctors of tomorrow so that they are more able to move into clinical leadership roles as quickly as possible?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question and welcome Doncaster hospital’s aspirations and ambitions. Any final decision will obviously be a matter for the NHS and Health Education England, but it is very encouraging that it is reaching for the stars in this way. Yes, we do need to train more doctors, and I hope that the hospital can make a good contribution.

The constituency of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) was just mentioned and he came in on cue. Unfortunately, he was not within the curtilage of the Chamber at the material time. No doubt we will hear from him at a later date, to which we look forward with eager anticipation.