NHS Recruitment and Retention
Mr Tony Cunningham (PPS (Mr Elliot Morley, Minister of State), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Workington, Labour)
I thank hon. Members for enabling me to speak. In the few minutes that remain, I shall concentrate on local issues of recruitment and retention. There are problems, but it is important to put them into perspective. In west Cumbria, no in-patients are waiting more than nine months, and no out-patients are waiting more than 17 weeks. There are 167 out-patients waiting more than 13 weeks, compared with the figure 12 months ago, when it was about 600. That represents a fall of about 70 per cent.
The accident and emergency unit in west Cumbria has a proud record: 96.7 per cent. of those in accident and emergency are seen and treated within four hours. That is an incredible achievement and I pay tribute to the staff, who almost perform miracles in the accident and emergency department. With regard to cancer services, 99.9 per cent. of referrals are seen by a specialist within two weeks.
We have 229 more doctors and 1,690 more nurses. One or two hon. Members have mentioned Filipina nurses. In 2002 we recruited 31 Filipina nurses. They have integrated extremely well and do a fantastic job. There have been three weddings and two babies have been born as a result of them coming to the area. The lady who was responsible for the Filipino programme says:
"It has been a wonderful experience for all concerned. The nurses have settled well into our hospitals and communities and have embraced life in Cumbria. It has proved to be an exceptionally successful international recruitment campaign for the Trust."
That is a great record.
One of the problems that we have with recruitment and retention is the isolation of west Cumbria—we are quite a distance from the nearest motorway, and so on. However, we have a fantastic quality of life: relatively low house prices, compared with London; the lowest crime rate in the country; and some of the finest schools. If there are any doctors or nurses out there watching the debate, west Cumbria is a superb place to come and work.
However, quality of life is not enough. There are two things that we must do. First, we must try to get a medical school in west Cumbria. Four new medical schools have been created recently and there have been three collaborations between universities. If more people were trained at a medical school in the area, there would be a greater chance of them putting down roots and staying there.
Another thing that would help with both recruitment and retention is a brand new hospital. A brand new community hospital is currently being built. It is a multi-million pound development that will be a huge bonus for the people of Workington, but we need a new district hospital in west Cumbria. I think that the figures suggest that by 2010, about 100 new hospitals will be built in this country. I hope that once all the machinations have been gone through and the consultations have taken place, west Cumbria will get a brand new hospital.
We have talked about targets and all sorts of things,but the vast majority of NHS users whom I speak to—I am sure that other hon. Members would say the same thing anecdotally—tell me what fantastic treatment and service they had. Regardless of the problems with recruitment and retention, there is no doubt that we have seen a huge improvement in the NHS throughout the seven years for which we have had a Labour Government.