Acute Hospital Services

Part of Opposition Day — [6th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Minister of State (Department of Health) (Delivery and Quality) 6:48 pm, 21st February 2007

As it approaches its 60th anniversary, our NHS is providing a better and better service to the British public. Today, care is available to those who need it more quickly and conveniently and to higher standards than ever before. That progress has been made possible by those who had the political courage to vote for more investment in health and those who have always stood by the NHS throughout their political lives. But it is mainly down to the NHS staff and, yes, NHS managers, who have had the courage, too, to challenge old ways and make changes. It is not change for change's sake, but change for a clear reason: to place the NHS on a path of improvement. It is that improvement that brings us to the point at which the end of waiting and waiting lists as we have known them since the beginning of the national health service is in sight.

For far too long, the debate about health care in this country has been dominated by the interests of acute hospitals. That point is perfectly and depressingly illustrated by the stale Conservative motion before us, which represents old Tory thinking. The real story of what is happening in our NHS today is that we are seeing the beginning of the breakdown of the barriers between not only primary and secondary care, but the health service and local government.

We got no vision from the Tories today and heard no answers about what Tory health policy would involve. Instead, we had to turn to our doctor from Dartford and our nurse from Crawley, who made outstanding contributions of piercing clarity. My hon. Friend Dr. Stoate said that hospital admissions were a failure of health policy and that they often happened because care was not in the right place. He called for more integration of primary and secondary care, and that will be the precise effect of the 18-week policy that the Government are following.