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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 18th December 2013.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health 3:40 pm, 18th December 2013

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The then Secretary of State, now the shadow Secretary of State, missed the target in this very week when he was in charge. We know that the winter is tough, and that performance always dips at this time of year. We also know that the staff are under a lot of pressure. The truth is that we inherited a dysfunctional system that was crying out for reform, with too many people ending up in hospital because of crises in their care, as my hon. Friend Dr Lee made clear. For years, I have argued the case for a different approach.

We are supporting the NHS to enable it to manage better in the short term. For this winter, we are investing an additional £400 million in total—more than ever before. In the longer term, we need to look afresh at how we organise urgent care. That is why Bruce Keogh’s report into urgent and emergency care is so important, and I hope that Siobhain McDonagh will accept the case for a clinically led review in order to achieve the right approach. We will work closely alongside NHS England in putting these reforms into practice. Kate Green was absolutely right to say that we have to communicate better with the public and ensure that the process is a good one.

In the longer term, we need to do more to prevent people from ending up in hospital as a result of avoidable crises. As my hon. Friend Andrew George said, we need to make two big shifts. The first involves a move to a much greater focus on preventing ill health and the deterioration of health. The second involves a shift from a fragmented system to one that is integrated and joined up. That is the approach that we must follow.

Integrated pioneers around the country, such as those in south Devon and Torbay, Greenwich and Labour-led Barnsley, are doing great work, joining up care, collaborating with the voluntary sector, providing better care and keeping people out of hospital. That is the vision of the health service for the future. These pioneers will help the rest of the country to make the best possible use of the £3.8 billion better care fund. The fund will encourage organisations: to act earlier to prevent people from reaching crisis point; to offer seven-day services; and to deliver care that is centred on people’s needs. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend Paul Burstow for welcoming that important new fund. We are also introducing named, accountable GPs for the over-75s and improving access to general practice.

We are addressing both the short-term and long-term challenges, giving the NHS the support it needs. I want to genuinely thank the excellent staff throughout our health and care services who are tackling these issues head-on. The measures and changes we have outlined today will support staff to deliver the best possible care, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division.