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Inflation: Public Health and Wellbeing

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2023

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the potential impact of inflation on public health and wellbeing. (906198)

The Government are committed to supporting individuals to live healthier lives. High inflation is the greatest immediate economic challenge that we must address. The Government have made it a priority to halve inflation this year. We are on the path back to the target of 2% and consumer price index inflation fell to 6.8% in July. We will continue to work with all Departments to deal with the inflationary pressures they face.

Being unable to pay for essentials such as food, heating and rent has an impact on physical and mental health. It can lead to delayed diagnosis, malnutrition and serious mental health problems. As the former Health Secretary will know, prevention is better than cure, but austerity flies in the face of a preventative approach. What discussions has the Chancellor had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to ensure that the NHS has prevention at its heart? Will we see a rise in funding in the autumn statement?

Yes, I have frequent conversations with the Secretary of State and other Ministers about health budgets. We will be increasing the public health grant to £3.575 billion for the next financial year. That is to ensure that we have that real-term funding protection over the next two years, but there are a number of other interventions that we are making on delivering services more effectively, ensuring that we have the provision of additional staff with the long-term workforce plan for the NHS. None the less, I do recognise the challenges that a post-covid NHS faces in terms of the legacy of demand that is yet unmet. We are continuing to work to bring down waiting lists and we have seen significant progress recently, particularly with two-year and 18-month lists.

A key part of improving the public health and wellbeing of my local residents in Kettering is the redevelopment of Kettering General Hospital. Can the Chief Secretary to the Treasury confirm that the £400 million-plus redevelopment of KGH remains on track for completion by 2030, and that the standardisation of the design of the 40 new hospitals will help to reduce costs and increase deliverability?

Kettering General Hospital is always at the top of my mind when I come to Treasury questions, but the bigger challenge, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, is how we ensure the efficiency of the expenditure of every pound of taxpayers’ investment in the health estate. I shall continue to work with the Secretary of State on that plan for the 40 hospitals to make sure that we achieve that.

In the many discussions that the Minister says he has had with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what figure did they discuss with him that he estimates inflation will be at in the next financial year?

There are a range of forecasts, but we have to deal with the reality. I am trying to ensure that, across all of the decisions that Secretaries of State make, we reprioritise effectively and deliver frontline services, but I do not have a number for the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

People in Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke find that mental health is a huge barrier to getting back into work and obviously helping to produce economic growth. That is something that the Chancellor is reported to have been considering carefully over the summer recess. My friend James Starkie and I have launched a No Time To Wait campaign to use some existing health and social care funding to get specialist mental health nurses into GP surgeries to help support people in a more preventive way—something the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mary Kelly Foy) asked about earlier. What support will the Treasury give to help the Department of Health and Social Care to enact those plans?

My hon. Friend always has constructive suggestions in this difficult area. The Chancellor brought forward a number of interventions in the Budget to get people back into work after some of the behavioural shifts that we saw following the pandemic. We look forward to continuing to work with my hon. Friend on solutions for his community.