NHS Funding Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Siobhain McDonaghMP Main Page: Siobhain McDonagh (Labour - Mitcham and Morden)
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(5 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
We lost the general election, but that does not give Tory Members a free pass on the state of the NHS. We have seen an increase in trolley waits in hospitals in December of 65%, and trolley waits in the past year, on this Secretary of State’s watch, have risen to 847,000—the highest number of trolley waits in hospital corridors on record.
My hon. Friend speaks movingly about the situation in her local trust. Of course, St George’s is one of the trusts that has a high maintenance backlog of around £99 million. The reason why hospitals such as St George’s have maintenance backlogs, which mean that they cannot get the flow through the hospital that is needed so that my hon. Friend’s constituents are treated on time, is because capital budgets have been raided repeatedly. The underfunding of the NHS has been such that NHS chiefs have had to shift money from capital budgets into the day-to-day running of the NHS. That is what Tory austerity has done to our NHS. That is what Tory austerity means for my hon. Friend’s constituents.
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The Government have no proposals whatsoever. They have been talking about bringing forward a social care plan for years now. As I have said before in the House, Members are more likely to see the Secretary of State riding Shergar at Newmarket than see a social care plan. The truth is that, if the Government want to put forward some proposals, we will always be happy to talk to them. We are clear that taxation is the best way to fund adult social care, and that we need a version of free personal adult social care. That is what we have put in our manifesto, and that is what the House of Lords has proposed, and, as I have pointed out, there are some very Thatcherite Tories on that Committee in the House of Lords—they are by no means red in tooth and claw socialists. They have looked at all these different options and came to the conclusion that a taxation-funded system is the best way to go, but, of course, we are prepared to have discussions. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he put his question. He is a very thoughtful figure in the House and he has done a lot of work on this matter, and Members on both sides of the House appreciate that.
As I was saying, the Secretary of State cannot tell us the allocations for public health budgets beyond the next three months. We have talked about capital, but we still do not have a multi-year capital settlement. We still do not know whether the Secretary of State will rule out the capital to revenue transfers that have taken place over the past 10 years. If we can find an amendment in scope, we will put it down to rule out capital to revenue transfers. If he agrees that capital to revenue transfers are not in the interests of our hospitals that desperately need to deal with their repair backlog, I hope that he will support such an amendment.
The Bill does not provide a proper costed plan for the workforce. There is nothing in the Bill on training budgets, when every single trust chief executive reports that understaffing is their biggest challenge, and a hindrance to delivering safe care. The numbers employed by trusts over the past decade have grown at half the rate of 2000, and this is at a time of increasing need. As I have said, with vacancies numbering more than 100,000, the situation across the NHS is chronic. Staff shortages mean overcrowded wards, lengthening queues in A&E, cancelled operations and exhausted, burned-out staff with low morale who feel that they must do more with less. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the numbers leaving the NHS citing bad work-life balance has trebled under this Government.
In these circumstances, the Government expect to retain 19,000 nurses and recruit an additional 31,000, although they are not actually bringing back a full bursary to do so. At the same time, vacancies for nursing today stand at about 44,000, so the Government are hardly going to resolve the crisis in nurse vacancies that our trusts are facing. Not only have the Government failed to train enough nurses, they have not dealt with the taxation changes affecting doctors. On diagnostics, one in 10 posts are vacant in England, so if the Government are to meet their promise to diagnose three in four cancers at an early stage by 2028, we need to see significant growth in the NHS cancer workforce as well. We have no funded workforce plan, even though it was promised by the Government when they announced these funding allocations back in summer 2018.
This all matters, because the NHS will simply not be turned around without the investment in public health that is needed, without recruiting the extra staff that are needed, without modernising buildings and equipment and without fixing our broken social care service. The Secretary of State will not be able to improve performance across the NHS and level up health outcomes while the Government continue to pursue their austerity agenda.
We have seen a decade of cuts, which has seen child poverty rising—it is set to rise to record levels—increasing rough sleeping on our streets, insecure work becoming the norm, poor quality housing becoming commonplace, local services being cut back and closed, and an increase in air pollution. All of these things determine the health of our constituents.
Austerity means that the advances in life expectancy that we have come to expect since the second world war have begun to stall. Infant mortality rates have increased three years in a row. The last time that that happened was during the second world war. We are seeing increasing mortality rates for those in their 40s—so-called deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcohol abuse—and the gap between the health of the richest and the health of the poorest getting wider and wider. Not only have we seen in this decade of austerity widening inequalities in health outcomes, but we are now seeing widening inequalities in access to health services—the poorest wait longer in A&E, the poorest wait longer for a GP appointment because there are fewer GPs in poorer areas, the poorest have fewer hip replacements, and the poorest are less likely to recover from mental ill health.
Order. The hon. Lady will have her chance to speak for quite some time later in the debate, and I think that the hon. Gentleman is just concluding his speech.
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Will my hon. Friend forgive me if I do not? I just want to make two final points because I know that other people wish to speak.
We need to focus resolutely on delivering GPs in rural areas and trying to find innovative ways to make general practice in a rural location attractive, with a very clear career path. If we do not, it will be a continuing problem and all our constituents will suffer.
Mental health is an issue, irrespective of age, that is often exacerbated in a rural setting due to isolation and loneliness. We must tackle that. My hon. Friend the Minister is now rushing for a separate sheet of paper to take a more detailed note of what I am calling for—wishing, I am sure, that I had not been called to speak in this debate.
Every Member of the House will have their pressing concerns. There will be an awful lot of overlap in the Venn diagram of pressure on the Department. However, this is a golden opportunity. Let us not just fritter it away on what is easy, but do the long-term thinking to find sustainable, sensible solutions to some of our health issues and problems in rural North Dorset and across the country—and then the Minister and his team will be thanked.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. May I congratulate those who have made their maiden speeches? May I also praise all those who work in the NHS in South Dorset and in Dorset generally? I concur with many of the things that my friend and colleague my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) said. I congratulate the Secretary of State, not least on his endurance capability. He was sitting on the Front Bench for so long and listening to us all, for which I am grateful, as I am sure all other colleagues are too.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset rightly mentioned community hospitals, which are so important, certainly to rural constituencies. I know they are important everywhere, but they are particularly important to us. We struggled to keep open Swanage, but we have won that battle. Sadly, we have lost the beds on Portland, and all the facilities have gone to the hospital in Weymouth. The Portlanders—they are fiercely independent, and rightly so—jealously guard all that they have, and they are very sad that the beds have had to move. That was entirely due to the lack of trained staff, so that is one case highlighting the urgent need for more trained nurses.
In Poole, although it is not in my constituency, a decision was made by the clinical commissioning group to move the A&E to Bournemouth. For those who live in Swanage, that means a considerably longer journey— sometimes through rush-hour traffic in Bournemouth, which can be bad—or, alternatively, going to Dorset County, a journey that is slightly longer. I stress to the Minister that what we need down in Dorset is money to keep ambulances in their local towns and villages? For example, Swanage has an ambulance station. It was under threat, as I understand it; it is now not. That ambulance must remain in Swanage and available to Swanage people, so that it is not called from, say, Wareham, which would be a 20-minute journey down and a 20-minute journey back, making it over an hour to A&E, which simply is not on. I am working with the CCG to try to ensure that that is the case.
Finally, I will speak briefly—it is all the time I have anyway—about the Dorset County Hospital and its plans for a new A&E, which is desperately needed. I am afraid the figure is eye-watering: £62 million is needed completely to refurbish Dorset County Hospital A&E. What it has now—it is low roofed, there is no space and there is a shortage of places to move more beds to—means that people are really working in conditions that are not suitable for the demand placed on this hospital. Its budget is in balance, I am glad to say. It reckons it is going to draw even this year, but it is forecasting a loss of about £3 million to £5 million next year. What we would love from the Government is a little bit of attention to our rural acute hospitals, which seem to suffer because of the funding formula and various other things, and just a little bit more money. Let us face it, £3 million, £4 million or £5 million, when we are talking about a budget of billions, is not actually that much, but it would mean so much, certainly to our constituents in Dorset and to a vital hospital that everybody loves.
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Because the cash set out in the Bill is the money that the NHS is going to be getting as a floor.
The shadow Minister rightly raised the issue of mental health. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was rightly clear that spending on mental health provision will increase the fastest under the proposals in the Bill, with spending on children’s mental health increasing the fastest of all. I am sure the Opposition will welcome that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt) rightly highlighted the quantum of spending and how that compares to other countries around Europe and, indeed, in the OECD. I pay tribute to him, because a lot of what we are talking about today is based on the foundations that he built when he did such a fantastic job as Secretary of State.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) and my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) rightly alluded to the Bill’s impact on Barnett consequentials and spending in Scotland. As the hon. Lady will know, the Barnett consequentials will apply. My hon. Friend highlighted the fact that not only the NHS in England but the NHS in Scotland faces challenges that we must all step up to meet.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) highlighted the need for us to focus not just on inputs but on outcomes and what we achieve with the money that we invest. That is exactly what the Secretary of State is determined to do.
The hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), a fellow east midlands Member, highlighted the need for capital investment in her local hospitals in Nottingham. I am happy to meet her to discuss that further, if that would be helpful to her.
Let me turn to maiden speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson) made an excellent maiden speech. As Members have said, his predecessor Jenny Chapman was respected and well liked in the House. I suspect that, given his speech, he will achieve exactly the same distinction. He spoke forcefully and powerfully on behalf of his constituents. I am sure that they will find him a doughty local campaigner in their interest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Lee Anderson) paid tribute to his predecessor, Gloria De Piero, who was my shadow when I was a Justice Minister. He was right to pay tribute to her, because she was a fantastic colleague to have in this House. None the less, he achieved a fantastic result. As a fellow east midlands MP, I know his constituency well. It is a fantastic place and his constituents are very lucky to be represented by him. He is a local man standing up for his community. He also spoke movingly of his journey—if I may put it this way—from pit to Parliament, and the power of social mobility, of aspiration and of opportunity. He reminded me of a former colleague of ours and a good friend of mine, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who made the same journey. He ended up in the Cabinet, so I will be watching my hon. Friend’s inevitable ascent carefully.
The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) touched on, among other things, Heston health centre. Again, as ever—as in my previous role—I am happy to meet her to discuss that. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey), in an eloquent but forceful maiden speech, clearly put this House on notice that he will always speak up for his principles and his beliefs, and, while we may on occasion disagree on policy, I doubt we will disagree on his passion and determination to champion his constituents’ interests.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mrs Elphicke) also focused on achieving outcomes. She touched on the tragic death of Tallulah-Rai Edwards. I extend my condolences to the family, but may I also say that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for patient safety will be happy to meet her to discuss that in more detail.
It is always a pleasure to meet the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris) and to hear from him. We have met previously, and he and the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), are due to meet again to discuss this matter in a few weeks’ time when we will pick it up further.
Let me turn now to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Gary Sambrook). May I pass on my congratulations to his sister on the birth of Freddie and pay tribute to all staff, as he did, working in our amazing NHS for the work that they do. Many hon. Members paid tribute to them, including the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), and my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Victoria Prentis)—I have no doubt that I will be hearing from her about the Horton on many occasions in the future. My hon. Friends the Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and for South Dorset (Richard Drax) made powerful pleas for investment in their community hospitals and in their local health infrastructure. I am a regular visitor to the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset, so I look forward to visiting both colleagues in due course.
As well as talking about Crawley Hospital, my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) highlighted the need for Gatwick airport to be included in the conversations on the coronavirus, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have heard what he said, and is already factoring that in.
Before concluding, I will touch very briefly on two other contributions: my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis)—and indeed my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), who was not in his place. They have all highlighted the issue of the private finance initiative. I am happy to meet them to discuss it further.
Let me turn now to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Elliot Colburn) and the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh). I have to say that my hon. Friend made a very strong case for the benefits that this investment will bring for all those who are served by his local trust. I encourage the hon. Lady to engage with this process and engage with the benefits that this investment will bring.
I am afraid that, with one minute to go, I will not give way.
The nation’s health and social care is the people’s priority and it is also our priority. Key to delivering on our long-term plan, and the NHS’s long-term plan, is giving the NHS the investment that it needs. This Bill does exactly that. We are delivering on the people’s priorities and on our pledges to the NHS, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.