NHS and Social Care Commission

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:29 pm on 28th January 2016.

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Photo of Phillip Lee Phillip Lee Conservative, Bracknell 1:29 pm, 28th January 2016

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention because it allows me to elaborate. A couple of years ago, I had a meeting with Andy Burnham—all the polls were saying that the Opposition would win the election, so I thought I would have a meeting with him in advance. I said, “Look, Andy, you’re going to have a problem. We’ve got all these hospitals. We know some of them are not fit for purpose. We know we’ve probably got too many because of how healthcare has changed. Some 80% of care delivered in the NHS is for chronic conditions. Why don’t you have a cross-party commission so that all the parties can share the political pain of deciding which hospitals should be retained as acute hospitals, delivering the 24-hour stroke and angiography suites, the surgical interventions and the like, and then have more community hospitals, with urgent care centres attached”—the hub-and-spoke model. At the time, he looked at me and said, “Well, maybe”, and made no commitment.

My point was that it was extremely difficult for colleagues in marginal seats to come out and say what I said in my constituency, which was that the current local hospital settlement was not in the best interests of my constituents. It is very hard to do that in a marginal seat, be it Labour, Conservative or whatever, so, with a cross-party commission, we could all share the pain.

All the royal colleges, particularly the paediatricians and obstetricians, know that staffing in some district general hospitals is not ideal. It is extremely difficult to provide the level of care we know we can deliver. How do we get to that point? A couple of years ago, I thought that having all the parties and independent experts in a room would be one way of going from approximately 200 to 100 such hospitals in England and Wales. That is the sort of scale change I am talking about. I hope that that answers the question from my hon. Friend Dr Mathias.