NHS Performance

Part of Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 7th June 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health 12:32 pm, 7th June 2006

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving me the opportunity to see her statement and the financial performance report 40 minutes ago. After her excursion into a parallel universe, it is about time we came back down to earth. She has come to the House today to admit that, for the fourth year in a row under this Government, the financial situation in the national health service is deteriorating, and that the deficit is a great deal larger than in the previous year. She says that there was a net deficit of £512 million in the last financial year. On a like-for-like basis, it was £216 million in the previous financial year, so it is now more than two and a half times greater.

The Secretary of State's policy has failed, but of course it is the civil servants and the managers in the NHS who will get the blame. Trusts will be singled out and told that they are responsible for the deficit. Sir Nigel Crisp resigned in March. If everything was going so well in March, I wonder why the chief executive of the NHS had to leave in those circumstances. Since then, there has been an exodus from the Department of Health, with people either jumping or being ejected from the sinking ship. Many of them have rightly said that the NHS is suffering from the void of leadership in the rudderless Department of Health. The growing gap between the hard-working staff in the NHS and the leadership that ought to be coming from the Department of Health is causing a crisis of confidence.

The Secretary of State's statement purported to give us financial information about the past year. She gave us the unaudited figures, and mentioned a sum of £512 million. Did she go on to tell us that the unaudited figures last year were out by 80 per cent. compared with the audited figures? The audited figures were £112 million higher than the unaudited figures. We do not yet know what this year's audited figures are going to be.

The Secretary of State told us that the gross deficit was £1.27 billion. That is about 1.5 per cent. of the total NHS allocations. She then said that that was being offset by surpluses. Well, yes indeed—there are £760 million of surpluses. But she did not tell the House that more than £500 million of those surpluses have been generated by the strategic health authorities. That means that they have cut their budgets, and they are planning to do so again this year. Most of those cuts will involve training budgets, which will mean fewer posts for doctors and nurses coming into the profession seeking to pursue their vocation. If there is a 10 per cent. cut in training budgets this year—as postgraduate deans across the country expect—that will affect 4,000 training posts for doctors. In Stoke yesterday, a lecturer in nursing at Keele university told me that— [ Interruption.]