Hospital Trusts (Deficits)

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 2nd June 2015.

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Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North 11:30 am, 2nd June 2015

What estimate he has made of the anticipated levels of deficits in hospital trusts for the current financial year.

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health

The NHS faces significant financial challenges this year and beyond. That is why we have now committed £10 billion extra for the NHS—£2 billion for this year and at least £8 billion more by 2020. Individual trust plans for 2015-16 are still being worked up but, with concerted financial control from providers, we expect to deliver financial balance in 2015-16.

Photo of Helen Jones Helen Jones Labour, Warrington North

But does the Secretary of State accept that in trusts such as mine, which anticipates a £15 million deficit this year, that cannot be done without cuts to staff, beds and services? What happened to the Prime Minister’s pledge on a bare-knuckle fight to protect district general hospitals, when trusts such as mine are facing such circumstances?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health

I will tell the hon. Lady what has happened to the Prime Minister’s pledge to protect hospitals: an extra £10 billion that we have promised for the NHS, which her party refused to promise. Her local hospital has 88 more doctors since 2010, and it is doing an extra 2,000 operations for her constituents year in, year out. I will tell her what makes the deficit problem a lot worse: the heritage of the private finance initiative, which means £73 billion of debt that her party bequeathed to the NHS.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Conservative, Huntingdon

In 2004 the then Huntingdonshire primary care trust said that it would give Hinchingbrooke hospital a grant of £8 million towards the cost of a new PFI treatment centre. Shortly before the PCT’s demise, it changed without discussion the terms of the grant and made it a loan, which has since been treated in its accounts as a deficit. If I write to my right hon. Friend, will he look into that patently unfair treatment?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health

Of course. One of my biggest concerns is that many of the hospitals now facing huge deficits are seeing their situation made infinitely worse by PFI debt. We will continue to do everything we can to help hospitals deal with that.

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State for Health

On behalf of everyone on the Opposition Benches, I echo the Secretary of State’s warm tribute to Charles Kennedy. I cannot have been the only person this morning wondering why politics always seems to lose the people it needs most. Charles was warm, generous, genuine and principled. We will miss him greatly. We send our love and deepest sympathy to his family.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his reappointment, but I commiserate with him on the financial position in the NHS that he inherits from himself. He told The Daily Telegraph today that the NHS has enough money, but that is not true. The deficit in the NHS last year was nearly £1 billion. Can he tell the House what the projected deficit is for the whole of the NHS for this year?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his place. We have seen many feisty disagreements on health policy, and that is just in the shadow Health team. Perhaps he no longer believes his mantra about collaboration, not competition—we know that the shadow care Minister has disagreed with that for some time. To answer his question directly, there is a lot of financial pressure in the NHS, and that is because NHS hospitals took the right decision to respond to the Francis report into Mid Staffs by recruiting more staff to ensure that we ended the scandal of short-staffed wards. As a temporary measure it recruited a lot of agency staff, which has led to deficits, and that is what we are tackling with today’s announcement about banning the use of off-framework agreements for recruiting agency staff.

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State for Health

It is a new Parliament, but there are the same non-answers from the Secretary of State. He did not answer; he never does. I will give him the answer: NHS providers are predicting the deficit to double this year to more than £2 billion. Why has financial discipline been lost on his watch? It is because early in the previous Parliament the Government cut 6,000 nursing posts. They cut nurse training places and, when the Francis report came out, they left hospitals with nowhere to turn other than private staffing agencies. The Bill for agency nurses has gone up by 150% on his watch. He even admitted on the radio this morning that it was a mess of their making. Will he now apologise for this monumental waste of NHS resources and get our hospitals out of the grip of private staffing agencies by recruiting the 20,000 nurses that the NHS needs?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health

I have here the figures on nurse training placements, which started to go down in 2009-10, by nearly 1,000. Who was Secretary of State at the time? I think it was the right hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] I have the figures here, and they show that planned nurse training places went down from 21,337 to 20,327. He talks about apologies, but where is the apology for what happened at Mid Staffs, which led to hospitals having to recruit so many staff so quickly? That is the real tragedy, and that is what this Government are sorting out.