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Topical Questions

Volume 623: debated on Tuesday 21 March 2017

As part of our ambition to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, I will today be speaking at the largest ever conference on learning from avoidable deaths and what we can do to improve care in the future. As part of that, I can inform the House that the NHS Litigation Authority will radically change its focus from simply defending NHS litigation claims to the early settlement of cases, learning from what goes wrong and the prevention of errors. As part of those changes, it will change its name to NHS Resolution.

My constituent Pauline Cafferkey was cleared of misconduct last September, following a very public case surrounding her return from Sierra Leone and her contraction of Ebola. Will she receive an apology from Public Health England and will it reimburse her legal costs?

With respect to Pauline Cafferkey, who is a very brave lady and who gave very good service to this country and the people of Sierra Leone with her work during the Ebola crisis, the hon. Lady will understand that disciplinary procedures are an independent matter. They are not dealt with by the Government. They have to be done at arm’s length and we have to respect whatever is said or done.

T3. I was pleased to see the Government commit to new funding for emergency care in the Budget. As the MP for Derby North, a constituency particularly affected by poor air quality, I am concerned that respiratory admissions to A&E have risen at twice the rate of general admissions over the past five years. What steps is the Department taking to address this issue? (909346)

We are firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions. We have committed £2 billion since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles, support greener transport schemes and set out how we will improve air quality through a new programme of clean air zones. In addition, in the autumn statement we announced a further £290 million to support electric vehicles, low emission buses, taxis and alternative fuels. I regularly meet the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to see how we can roll out this work.

The Government have not met the four-hour target for A&E since July 2015. In the NHS mandate, finally published yesterday, the Secretary of State is effectively telling hospitals that they do not need to meet it in 2017 and that it only needs to be met in aggregate across hospitals

“within the course of 2018”.

Is that not the clearest admission that the targets will not be met next year, because in the next 12 months the NHS will be denied the funding it needs and, as a consequence, patients will suffer?

Apart from observing that if the hon. Gentleman cares so much about the 95% target he might want to ask his colleagues in Wales why they are looking at scrapping it, on the money let me be very clear: in the next year, the NHS will be getting about £1.5 billion more than his party were promising at the last election and the social care system will be getting £1.5 billion more than his party were promising at the last election. We are doing our job.

The Secretary of State says he is doing his job, so why does he not take that up with NHS Providers, which is warning that because of the underfunding, it will be “mission impossible” in the next 12 months to deliver standards of care. Returning to the NHS mandate, did you notice, Mr Speaker, that in that mandate there is no mention whatsoever of Brexit, even though the NHS relies on 140,000 NHS and care workers? I know that the Secretary of State is not a member of the Cabinet Brexit committee, but will he use his considerable influence with the Prime Minister to ensure that when she triggers article 50 next week, she will finally give an absolute guarantee of the rights of all those EU workers in our NHS?

First, let me first reassure you, Mr Speaker, that I will be attending the Brexit committee when it is relevant to the NHS; in fact, I shall attend it this week, because issues relating to the NHS are coming up in it. What we are not going to do in that committee, however, is to take steps that would risk the welfare of British citizens living in countries such as Spain, Ireland and France. That is why, although it is a top priority for us to negotiate the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, including those working in the NHS, it has to be part of an agreement that protects the rights of British citizens abroad.

T4. Last Friday, Laurel Bank surgery in my constituency attended a careers fair at Bishop Heber High School. Does the Secretary of State agree that that kind of outreach work by GPs among young people encourages them to study medicine and work in our great NHS? (909347)

I absolutely agree. What I think my hon. Friend should tell her constituents—I am sure she will—is that general practice is going to be the most exciting, fastest-growing part of the NHS, where care is going to be transformed, making this the right thing to do.

T2. Is the Secretary of State aware that my constituents are deeply disappointed with what he got out of the Budget? That poor deal for the NHS means that they face the closure of A&E in Huddersfield and the closure of Huddersfield hospital, and they no longer have a dentist who will take on an NHS patient in the whole of my constituency. (909345)

With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, what was secured in the Budget was £2 billion for social care, which is £2 billion more than his party was promising at the last election.

T6. Following the publication of the report of the all-party parliamentary group on rare, genetic and undiagnosed conditions on the UK rare diseases strategy, what plans does the Minister have to introduce an implementation plan for NHS England? (909349)

Frist, let me pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his leadership of the APPG on rare diseases. I am sure he will join me in feeling proud that the UK is a recognised leader in research, treatment and care for rare diseases in particular. We are at the forefront of the genomics revolution. He is right that the UK strategy for rare diseases needs to be translated into an implementation plan, and that is one of my personal commitments.

T5. Will the Secretary of State explain why my area of Hull, with its in-built health inequalities and poorer health outcomes, is getting just £13 million out of the additional money for social care set out in the Budget, while the local authority area that the Secretary of State represents in Surrey is getting £21 million-worth of additional support? (909348)

The formula is based on the better care fund formula, which is based on the spending power of local authorities. Let me tell the hon. Lady that, over the next year, that improved better care fund is going up by 35%, and Surrey’s allocation is going up by only 5%.

T8. As the Secretary of State knows, I am the vice-chairman of the all-party group on pharmacy. Will he update the House on the progress of the decriminalisation of dispensing errors by pharmacists? What is the hitch? (909351)

T7. Last week, leading trauma surgeon, Dr Duncan Bew, said his surgical team sees more young patients with serious stab injuries than people with appendicitis. This is a societal problem. Will the Minister inform us of his Department’s public health approach to tackling this issue? (909350)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that this is a serious issue. I commend the brilliant work done by NHS trauma centres throughout the country, which are world-beating, but, as well as setting up those centres, we have established much closer co-operation with local police forces so that we can work out where the crime hotspots are and help the police to prevent such things from happening.

T9. As the Secretary of State knows, we have a crisis in GP recruitment in rural north Lincolnshire. Does he agree that the best way to enable doctors to get to know our glorious county would be to establish a medical school at Lincoln University, and will he join our campaign to make that possibility come true? (909352)

As my hon. Friend will have heard from the Secretary of State earlier, a number of areas are competing to secure a new medical facility. One of our criteria will involve encouraging doctors to be trained in areas where there are shortages, and I am sure that Lincoln University will take that factor into consideration.

The British Medical Association said recently that the funds for sustainability and transformation plans that were announced in the Budget would be completely inadequate for the task. Health trusts throughout the country are being forced to consider rationing treatment and ending or downgrading local services such as A&E, which will result in even longer waits and journey times to access care. Why do the Government not call STPs what they really are—secret Tory plans to decimate the national health service further?

This is a year in which funding for the NHS has risen by £3.8 billion in real terms. I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can say what he has said, given that in 2015 he stood on a platform to give the NHS £1.3 billion less this year than it is receiving under the Conservatives.

T10. As the House heard earlier from my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), there is an excellent urgent care centre in that part of north Northamptonshire. There are plans to create a replica in Wellingborough. I understand that the Secretary of State may visit the centre in Corby; if he does, will he drive half an hour down the road and visit the site in Wellingborough where that proposed excellent urgent care centre will be built? (909353)

I feel the onset of a happy visit to Northamptonshire. What might clinch it for me would be the promise of a potential meeting with the famous Mrs Bone.

Last week, to the distress of its vulnerable residents, Aldingham House care home in Blackheath became the latest care home in south-east London to close. Do the Government accept that the care home industry is at breaking point, and, if so, what are they doing about it?

The number of care home beds in the country has remained broadly constant at just over half a million over the last 10 years. There is variation and churn between areas, but I believe that the 17% cash-terms increase that we have injected into the social care market in the Budget, and the better care fund that is to come, will make a difference.

I welcome the new nursing associates role that is currently being piloted. Will other areas, such as Portsmouth, be able to offer the same opportunities in the future, and will the new role be open to older people wishing to return to the workplace?

As my hon. Friend knows, we are launching a second wave of nursing associates at the beginning of April. I am pleased to be able to confirm that Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which manages Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, is one of the trusts that will receive nursing associates, and that the system is partly designed to give social care workers opportunities to upskill.

The Secretary of State will be aware of a recent High Court case concerning a surrogacy issue that has led to legal limbo. Does he agree that the existing legislation has let children down, and that reform is urgently needed?

I can confirm that the High Court has made a judgment, that the current orders for parental orders are discriminatory, and that the Government will act within a reasonable timescale. We intend to lay an order before the summer recess in an attempt to address some of the challenges.

One of my constituents, Harriet North, has been diagnosed with TRAPS—tumour necrosis factor receptor-associated periodic syndrome. Her consultants say that the drug Anakinra will not only transform her life, but will save her life. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss how we can get the best treatment for Harriet, and if it is possible for NHS England to review the decision on this?

My hon. Friend has raised this case with the Department and has been making a number of pleas on behalf of his constituent. It is a very difficult case and I would like to pass on my sympathies to his constituent. Obviously, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is independent and this drug is not recommended for TRAPS. I do not know the details of the case because it is confidential, but I will be very happy to meet my hon. Friend and his constituent to see if anything can be done.

I do not know if you spotted the rather topical news story about children’s dentistry this morning, Mr Speaker: there were 1,464 hospital admissions for children for teeth extractions across one clinical commissioning area of Birmingham last year, the highest figure since 2010-11. How does the Minister account for this, and what is he going to do about it?

The figures for child extractions are clearly disappointing and two key actions need to take place: less sugar, which we expect the soft drinks levy to help with; and getting more fluoride on to teeth, particularly through fluoride varnishing. That has increased across the NHS over the last year, and by 12% in Birmingham. We hope that that will make a difference.

The NHS mandate was published yesterday, just days before coming into force. Can the Secretary of State set out the reason for the delay, because it allows very little time for scrutiny of this important document by this House? Will he also set out how he is going to prevent money being leached from mental health services and primary care to prop up provider deficits, so that we can meet objective 6 on improving community services?

My hon. Friend makes very important points. The reason for the delay was because about a month ago we had wind that we might be successful in securing extra money for social care in the Budget, and we needed to wait until the Budget was completed before we concluded discussions on the mandate. Our confidence as a result of what is in the Budget has enabled us to make the commitments we have made in the mandate, including making sure that we continue to invest in the transformation of out-of-hospital care.

The Secretary of State will be aware that many migrants in the UK are not registered with GPs, yet now when they come to Britain they have to pay an NHS fine. What is he doing, with the Home Office, to ensure that migrants are registered with a GP and are aware of community health facilities?

I am not quite sure whether I understand the right hon. Lady’s question, but there is not a fining system for migrants; what we say is that people who come to the UK as visitors should pay for their healthcare, or pay the visa surcharge if they are coming for a longer period. There is an exemption for public health, because it is important for everyone that we make sure that we treat people for things like tuberculosis.

The Secretary of State is aware of the concern that I and the people of Witney have about the future of Deer Park medical centre, which is a vital local resource. I am grateful to him for meeting me and for our correspondence. Please will he confirm that he will press the Independent Review Panel for a response at the earliest opportunity, given that the clinical commissioning group is determined to close this vital practice in three days’ time, and that he will consider the views of the patients of Witney very carefully indeed?

I am very happy to relay that concern to the IRP, and I thank my hon. Friend: we had a highly constructive meeting, and, as a new MP, he understands just how important this is to the constituents of Witney. He made the case very powerfully.