NHS Commissioning Board (Mandate)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:44 pm on 13th November 2012.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health 12:44 pm, 13th November 2012

This is an incredibly important document for the NHS, and I think that we were all expecting a bit more than the same old hollow rhetoric from the right hon. Gentleman.

There could be no greater commitment to the NHS than to protect its budget at a time of unprecedented austerity. This Government have protected the NHS budget; the right hon. Gentleman said that that would be irresponsible. The Government take action; he uses words. The picture he paints of the NHS in crisis is not the picture recognised by thousands of doctors and nurses up and down the country. Of course, with an ageing population, the NHS is doing more than ever before. Nearly 1 million more people every year are in A and E than when he was Health Secretary, but it is meeting all its waiting times targets and has virtually eliminated mixed-sex wards, and hospital-acquired infections are going down. This NHS is performing exceptionally well.

Let me address some of the points that the right hon. Gentleman made. On finance, in the figures he gave, I think he was alluding to the fact that, in the first year the coalition was in power, it worked to Labour’s NHS budgets. There was an underspend in that year, as there was in each of the last four years that Labour was in control. In three of those four years, the underspend was higher than it was when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was Health Secretary. Let us talk about redundancy payments. The reforms introduced by my right hon. Friend will save the NHS—[ Interruption. ]