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NHS Reorganisation

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 25th January 2011.

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Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Labour, Wirral South 2:30 pm, 25th January 2011

What recent representations he has received on his plans for the internal reorganisation of the NHS; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

What recent representations he has received on his plans for the internal reorganisation of the NHS; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

The Government received more than 6,000 responses to the NHS White Paper consultations. As a result, we have strengthened both our approach to implementation and our proposals in the Health and Social Care Bill, which was introduced in Parliament last week.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Labour, Wirral South

The Government have embarked on a reorganisation of our health service that involves altering the commissioning process, handing responsibility to those with less experience of contracting, and at the same time unleashing the market, allowing a whole load of new providers in. What risks does the Minister see might be associated with that approach?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

The risk is that if we do not go ahead with these reforms, which are crucial to raising standards and improving outcomes, patient care, survival rates and treatment, we will be doing a grave disservice to the people of this country.

Photo of Bridget Phillipson Bridget Phillipson Labour, Houghton and Sunderland South

Last week, north-east regional board members of the British Medical Association made it abundantly clear to me and other north-east colleagues that they have serious concerns about the Government's plans and that they risk patient care. How is it that the Minister is right and they are wrong?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

Because I am afraid that the hon. Lady has not read the whole document, in this case from the BMA, or those from other organisations. What many say, including the BMA, on many of the proposals is that they are supportive of them, but naturally the hon. Lady and others cherry-pick those parts that suit their arguments.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

The Minister will be only too aware of the worries of my constituents in Newark about the future of the hospital. Will he assure me that the internal reorganisation of the NHS will run in parallel with and improve the delivery of the Newark health care review, rather than the contrary?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

Yes, and let me reassure my hon. Friend-because last summer I had the pleasure of joining him to visit what is an excellent hospital for the people of Newark-that under our reforms, given the commissioning powers of the GP consortia in the area, they will be able to help strengthen and tailor the health care that the hospital delivers, ensuring that it meets the needs of the people of Newark.

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Conservative, Crewe and Nantwich

How does my hon. Friend envisage the commissioning of ambulance services under the new GP commissioning regime?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

Ambulance services will be commissioned through the GP consortia at the local level. What I envisage-this is not prescriptive from the Department of Health, but what I think will develop-is that, just as ambulance services are currently commissioned for geographical areas in England through one PCT, the consortia will appoint lead consortia to commission the services for that area.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Shadow Minister (Public Health)

Does the Minister agree with the representations of the Select Committee on Health, chaired by Mr Dorrell, when it said that it was

"surprised by the change of approach between the Coalition Programme" in May

"and the White Paper" in July? The Committee continued:

"The White Paper proposes a disruptive reorganisation of the institutional structure of the NHS which was subject to little prior discussion and not foreshadowed in the Coalition Programme."

If he cannot convince his hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood, how is he going to convince the rest of us?

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

Let me begin by congratulating my, in fact, right hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood on the report that his Committee produced. The Government will give a full response to it in due course, as is usual. What I would tell the hon. Lady is that what happened in the Bill and the White Paper was what we and our coalition colleagues, the Liberal Democrats, had outlined in our election manifestos, which- [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members may say that, but I suggest that they look at pages 45 to 47 of the Conservative manifesto, which probably very few of them have bothered to do. GP commissioning, along with "any willing provider" et al, are there, and if one looks at the Liberal Democrat one- [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns The Minister of State, Department of Health

I am extremely grateful, Mr Speaker.

If we look at the Liberal Democrat manifesto, we can see that it also contains proposals for the abolition of strategic health authorities. Ms Abbott has alluded to the abolition of PCTs, and the reason for their abolition is that, when we have given the commissioning to GP consortia and the public health responsibilities to local authorities, there will be no job for the PCTs to do. Why keep them? There will be £5 billion savings during this Parliament that can be reinvested in front-line services.