NHS Workforce and Service Development

Part of Opposition Day — [18th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:01 pm on 11th October 2006.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Liberal Democrat, Northavon 2:01 pm, 11th October 2006

So the hon. Gentleman does not rule out spending less than Labour on the NHS.

The hon. Gentleman said at the start that the debate was not principally about finance. One of the reasons why there are 90 per cent. unemployment rates among physiotherapists when they graduate, and one of the reasons that we are seeing redundancies, including of front-line medical staff, is the Government's mismanagement of the finances of the NHS.

A recurrent problem throughout the debate is the issue of reconfiguration and who should decide when health services need changing for greater efficiency. At Prime Minister's questions earlier today, Michael Jabez Foster said that, if we do not like what is to happen to our accident and emergency department, whom do we ask? What do we do about it? There is only one person who has been anywhere near a ballot box whom people can ask, and she is sitting on the Government Front Bench. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State says overview and scrutiny. The local authority can scrutinise. What does it have the power to do? It has the power to go and ask her, and if she wishes and deigns to do so, she can refer the matter to an independent body.

My overview and scrutiny committee asked the Secretary of State to review the closure of Frenshay hospital in my constituency. Guess what? She refused. All three parties on the council, not just the Liberal Democrats, wanted a referral. I want a referral. Anyone who had ever been elected in the area wants a referral, but the Secretary of State blocks it, so she is the one who controls these matters centrally. How is that a democratic and accountable national health service?