Thank you very much.
The Government’s mandate to NHS England for 2018-19 clearly sets out A&E performance, and it will see performance improve. So far this year 18 million more attendances have been seen within the standard, and the NHS is introducing more options for urgent patient care. Of course, as the hon. Lady will know, the extra £20 billion a year that is going into the health service will ensure that more patients are seen in A&E.
According to a recent poll of doctors by the Royal College of Physicians, almost six in 10 doctors report feeling very worried or worried about the ability of their hospital to deliver safe patient care over the winter period. What is the Secretary of State or the Minister doing to help our hard-working NHS staff provide the best possible care for patients?
The NHS faces a challenging winter, but it has been planning throughout the year for this winter. It has been supported by an extra £420 million to redevelop A&Es, improve emergency care and help patients get home quicker. Those plans, more directly, include reducing the extended hospital stays we saw last year, increasing access to GP appointments and increasing the volume of cases that can be treated by emergency dentists.
Last week I visited the A&E at County Hospital, Stafford, which achieved 95.8% on the four-hour target in the week beginning 22 October and has consistently achieved over 95% for the past few months. Will the Minister come to Stafford to see what a great job it is doing, and to see how we can use County Hospital more and bring more services into it?
My hon. Friend has always been an assiduous advocate for his constituents and their concerns. He is right to make that case today. He is also right that, thanks to the hard-working staff in his hospital and across the country, the four-hour target continues to be met for nearly nine out of 10 patients. I will be delighted to come to Stafford.
Does the Minister agree that what considerably exacerbates A&E waiting times at the weekend is when, on occasion, our highly valued NHS staff come under attack? We should have a zero-tolerance approach to any attacks on those highly valued members of staff.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There can be no statement other than complete condemnation of attacks. We have changed the law, and it came into force earlier this month.
I welcome the Minister to his place. Although he is new, he will know that the A&E waiting target is not a recent initiative. It is a key part of the NHS constitution, but it has not been met for over three years. If he cannot make a commitment today on when the target will be met, will he accept that, at least for this winter under this Government, the NHS will once again be underfunded?
As I said in my earlier answer, we recognise that this winter will be challenging. We recognise that the A&E performance standard is not currently being met, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we are investing an extra £20 billion in the NHS to ensure that the standards are met. The NHS will use that investment to treat 250,000 more patients and to improve A&E performance across the country.