NHS: Learning from Mistakes

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 9th March 2016.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Health 1:47 pm, 9th March 2016

The hon. Lady had the chance to be constructive. I do welcome her commitment to a safer NHS, but we need actions and not just words from the Labour party if its conversion to improving patient care is to be believed. She mentioned the junior doctors’ strike. Patients and their families will have noticed that, when it came to the big test for Labour—whether to back vulnerable patients, who need a seven-day NHS, or the British Medical Association, which opposes it—Labour has chosen the union. She brought up the topic, so let me just remind the House of what Nye Bevan, the founder of the NHS, said about the BMA:

“this small body of politically poisoned people have decided to…stir up as much emotion as they can in the profession…they have mustered their forces on the field by misrepresenting the nature of the call and when the facts are known their forces will disperse.”—[Hansard, 9 February 1948; Vol. 447, c. 36-39.]

Bevan would have wanted high standards of care for vulnerable people across the whole week and so should she.

The hon. Lady also challenged the Government on safety, so let us look at the facts. Under this Government: MRSA down 55%; clostridium difficile down 42%; record numbers of the public saying that their care is safe; the proportion suffering from the major causes of preventable harm down by a third during my period as Health Secretary; and 11 hospitals with unsafe care put into special measures and then taken out of special measures, with up to 450 lives saved according to that programme. Before she gets on her high horse, she should compare that with Labour’s record: avoidable deaths at Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay, Basildon and many other hospitals; care so bad we had to put 27 hospitals into special measures; the Department of Health under Labour a “denial machine”, according to Professor Sir Brian Jarman; and contracts that reduced weekend cover in our hospitals passed by the last Government. They made a seven-day NHS harder—we are trying to put that right. The hon. Lady mentioned money, but she stood on a platform to put £5.5 billion less into the NHS every year than this Government. On the back of a strong economy, we are putting more resources into the NHS. A strong NHS needs a strong economy, and Labour had better remember that.

Let me look at some of the other points the hon. Lady raised. What I said in my statement about the GMC and NMC guidance was that, having said it would change, that guidance has changed and it is now clear that people are going to be given credit in tribunals for being open and honest about things that have gone wrong. She challenged me about the timing for the introduction of medical examiners, so let me remind her of the facts: the Shipman inquiry third report recommended medical examiners in 2003, Labour failed to implement that over seven years, and in six years we are implementing it, which is what I announced today. I am confident that there will not be additional burdens on local government.

The hon. Lady talked about the issue of supporting trusts that do not have the right reporting culture, and that is exactly what we are doing today, because we have published the names of not only the trusts that do not have a good reporting culture, but the names of those that do have a good reporting culture—trusts such as Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust and many others. The trusts that are struggling with this can learn from them.

The hon. Lady says that I need to do more, but, with respect, let me say that the measures we have taken on openness, transparency and putting quality at the heart of what the NHS does and needs to stand for go a lot further than anything we saw under the last Labour

Government. I say to her that it says rather a lot that, on a day when this Government have organised a summit, with experts from all over the world, on how to make our hospitals safer, the Labour party is lining up with unions against safer seven-day services. I urge her to think again and to choose the more difficult path of backing reform that will help to make our NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.