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It is a great pleasure to follow Anne Snelgrove, who made her points very powerfully. I will help her, I hope, with the points that I want to make.
I should like to concentrate on the final part of the motion on access to NHS services, which urges the House to call
"on the Government to ensure the fair allocation of resources, relative to burden".
First, however, I pay tribute to the consultants, doctors, nurses and other professionals who work in our health service. They are a tremendous asset to the country, and their dedication, professionalism and care know no bounds. Many nurses and doctors work longer than required to put patient care first, but they are often unrewarded financially for doing so. They are an asset to the country, and were it not for them, the NHS would be in crisis.
Unfortunately, in past years and months, and even in the past few weeks, I have had to attend a number of NHS hospitals across the country. The one thing that all the staff wanted me to say in the House of Commons when they found out that I was a Member of Parliament was that morale is at rock bottom. I did not know before today's debate that my hon. Friend Mr. Lansley had the figures from a survey to prove that, but that was just what they told me. Wherever I was, they said that morale was at rock bottom. When I asked why, they said that the main reason was that the Government set them priorities and targets. They head in that direction for six months, but then the Government change the priorities and targets, and they head off in the opposite direction. They thought that clinical judgment was not appreciated, and was not being used. A very senior consultant—one of the top cancer care specialists in the country—said that the book and choose system has had an adverse effect. He said that part of every surgery must be reserved for people using that system. He said that as a result he sees people who could be seen by a junior doctor rather than people who are seriously ill whom he should see. That is because of direct Government intervention on his clinical judgment.
The hon. Member for South Swindon made a powerful speech about how well things are going in her area and how much extra investment there is. That highlights an aspect of my argument: the situation is not the same across the country. The national capitation formula is supposed to produce fair play across the whole of the NHS, but north Northamptonshire does not get a fair deal. By the Government's own figures, over the past five years north Northamptonshire has been underfunded by £111 million. If we in north Northamptonshire had £111 million extra, we would not be denying patients access to certain treatments. I want to highlight such patients to give a few examples of what underfunding actually means. I am not trying to claim that the Government do not want to invest; I do not believe that the Government want what is happening to happen, but because of how they have run the NHS—top-down, in a Stalinist manner—it is happening.
A 92-year-old constituent of mine has gone deaf. He currently manages to live on his own, but he cannot make do without a hearing aid. The waiting time to receive a hearing aid for that 92-year-old is 15 months, and yet they can, of course, be bought off the shelf. He has been let down; access to that has been denied him. There is also the case of a lady who needed a hysterectomy. My primary care trust has introduced a minimum five-and-a-half-month wait. When she eventually got into hospital, she was gowned up and had done all the tests when she was told at 5 o'clock in the evening, "Sorry, we can't do it because the doctor's run out of hours," so she had to go back into the queue again.
There is also the issue of cancelled operations. I sat in a mixed ward and witnessed a consultant telling a patient on the other side of the room, "I'm sorry that we had to cancel your operation that was scheduled for six months ago. Unfortunately, your cancer has now got worse and the operation will be much more complicated." That patient did not survive; he died on the operating table.
Let me give another example of a lady in my constituency who is almost 80 years of age. She went to hospital; it was not the local hospital as there is no hospital in my constituency, so she had to go to one in a neighbouring constituency. She was told that she was going blind and had macular degeneration and that the only way to fix it was to have injections of a drug called Avastin. The consultant told her that it was not available on the NHS but that if she went to the place down the road, she could have it done for £3,300. It is incredible that although we are supposed to have a national health service with access for everyone—and with great facilities in South Swindon—I have a constituent who will go blind unless her family finds £3,300. That cannot be the basis on which to run the NHS. It cannot be right that patients in my constituency can go blind because people in Whitehall will not fund the treatment they need.