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[Un-alloted Half Day] — Future of the NHS

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 9th May 2011.

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Photo of Stephen Dorrell Stephen Dorrell Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 4:44 pm, 9th May 2011

I do not agree with everything that Dan Jarvis has just said, but I congratulate him on a thoughtful speech and wish to pick up on two points with which I entirely agree. The first was his moving tribute to the NHS staff who provided the care for his late wife. The second point, which is of immediate concern to us, was his recognition that the health service, like all human institutions, must embrace the need for change.

The question before the House this afternoon is how we can ensure that the need for change that the health service faces can be embraced and made a force for good. I open my remarks on that point by agreeing with the shadow Health Secretary, who said only a few short months ago, on 20 January —his words have already been quoted to him—that

“these plans are consistent, coherent and comprehensive. I would expect nothing less from Andrew Lansley

Nor would I. I agree that that is a fair description of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State’s proposals. I particularly congratulate my right hon. Friend, and the Government at large, on the fact that, despite that being a fair description of their proposals, they are now engaged in a listening exercise, the purpose of which is to improve a set of proposals that were described by the shadow Health Secretary in the terms I have already quoted.

I particularly welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister have made it clear that this will be a listening exercise on the policy substance, not just a process of balancing political forces in order to cobble together a compromise. If we are to be true to our commitment to the health service, as my right hon. Friend is, we need to ensure that we focus on the problems it faces and put in place structures that will deliver solutions.