NHS Workforce and Service Development

Part of Opposition Day — [18th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 12:44 pm on 11th October 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health 12:44 pm, 11th October 2006

I beg to move,

That this House, while welcoming past increases in the number of doctors, nurses and other health professionals working in the NHS, is alarmed at the recent reports of up to 20,000 posts to be lost in NHS hospitals and cuts in training budgets;
is deeply concerned about the lack of training posts for junior doctors;
condemns the severe shortage of posts for nurses and physiotherapists leaving training;
regrets the complete failure of the Government to remedy flaws in the implementation of the European Working Time Directive in its application to doctors' hours;
further regrets the unemployment of specialist medical staff;
believes NHS services are being cut back as a result of both financial deficits and staffing shortages rather than in the interests of patient safety;
and calls on the Government to ensure that the NHS fully utilises the potential of healthcare professionals available to the service.

The purpose of this debate is straightforward. The NHS is, in a real sense, its staff. The number and quality of health care professionals in the NHS is key to the quality of health care provided, and I am sure that Members on both sides of the House share a deep gratitude to doctors, nurses, therapists, scientists and health care professionals of all types across the NHS for their tremendous work. Improving the number of NHS staff is central to improving services.

Under the Conservative Government, the number of doctors increased by 23,000 and the number of nurses by 55,000. Under the present Government, according to the work force census, there are 33,368 more doctors, contrary to what the Government amendment says. There are 85,305 more qualified nurses and midwives than in 1997. The number of administrators has, of course, increased by 107,000. Under Labour, not only have the resources been badly used—according to the Office for National Statistics, productivity has fallen by 1 per cent. a year during the life of this Government—but now deficits are hitting those very staff. We know, and have debated, the scale of the deficits—today's debate is not primarily about that subject—and the Secretary of State has had to admit not only that the deficit last year was £1.3 billion gross, but that it was higher than she had previously estimated. It is now £547 million net.

Those deficits across the country are directly impacting on services. Decisions being made for short-term financial expediency have a direct impact on those staff. It is on that issue that we want to focus today—the impact on the staff of the NHS and, by extension, on the services that they provide, of the mismanagement of finances across the NHS.