Opposition Day — [15th Allotted Day] — Accident and Emergency

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:55 pm on 18th December 2013.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health 1:55 pm, 18th December 2013

I am going to make some progress.

I want to move on to what we have been doing. As I said, every Health Secretary deals with difficult winters in the NHS. However, this year is different because we have taken unprecedented steps to relieve the pressure in the short and the long term. For this winter, we have distributed more financial help—£400 million in total—than ever before. So far, that money has paid for 2,900 additional staff, 1,100 more hospital beds, and 1,200 more community beds. It has also paid for additional support for ambulance services and 111 centres. We distributed that money earlier than ever before. [Interruption.] Mr Reed says that we should not have cut the money in the first place. We did not—we protected and increased the NHS budget, which the shadow Health Secretary still wants to cut, as he reaffirmed today and on Monday. We distributed the money in August, earlier than ever before. We extended the winter flu campaign to two and three-year-olds. Patients who require emergency treatment this winter can be assured that they are getting high-quality and speedy care despite the pressure that we all recognise A and E departments are under.

We have gone further. This year, we have started to tackle the root causes of the long-term pressures in A and E, which are the result of the ageing population, yes, but also, sadly, the disastrous mistakes made by the previous Government, including the 2004 GP contract changes and the 48-hour GP appointment target that did not work.