NHS Workforce and Service Development

Part of Opposition Day — [18th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 11th October 2006.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chair, Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Joint Committee) 2:51 pm, 11th October 2006

In a moment.

I heard the Secretary of State using phrases that I remember using frequently when I was closing hospitals that we did not need. In my day, they were often Victorian workhouses. I would explain how we had to strive for more day surgery, shorter stays in hospital and more use of community services. That is all common sense when running any health care system. The snag is, as has been illustrated over and over, that that is not at the root of the present bad crisis. At the moment, many parts of the country—including mine—are being driven to short-term expedients to address financial deficits. They are saving money wherever they can. The failure to offer jobs to physiotherapists has nothing to do with a movement towards a more rational service. Student nurses are having more difficulty finding jobs and clinical staff are being shed because the NHS is in a total shambles. If the Secretary of State will not acknowledge that, we do not have much chance of curing it. I preferred my hon. Friend's approach.

The crisis is caused, as crises in health care systems throughout the world are caused, by a complete inability to control costs; the complete lack of a financial management system for most of the NHS; and an inability to localise the services sufficiently and give enough discretion to the people with the competence to sort them out, if that is what they wish to do.

I accept that there is no shortage of resources. The tragedy is that the crisis has occurred after the Government have poured money into the NHS for the past 10 years. That is not a matter of pride. How can they have trebled the expenditure in cash terms and doubled it in real terms, but still need to sack staff or close hospitals all over the place because costs have not been controlled? The Government cannot answer that question.