Conservative Members agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the wonderful work that public sector workers do, not least in our NHS. The NHS saved my life when I was 24. I have two children heading to work in the NHS, one of whom worked as a healthcare assistant over the summer. Members of my family are also frequent users of the NHS.
Over the last few months, I have had the pleasure of spending a day at the Bassett Road GP practice in Leighton Buzzard, and I am full of admiration for the doctors and practice nurses I saw working there. I also spent time at my local hospital, the Luton and Dunstable, which has the best accident and emergency service in the country, and we are learning lessons from it all around the country, which are being spread by the Department of Health. Really importantly, I have also spent time with the social care staff of Central Bedfordshire Council and elsewhere, and seen the independent living schemes that will be key to the sustainability and transformation plans in my area.
In these debates, we seem to focus entirely on the top line of departmental budgets. In 2016-17, the Department of Health had a departmental expenditure limit of £120.6 billion and annually managed expenditure of £16.2 billion—£136 billion in total. We need to reflect on the words of Jon Thompson, a permanent under-secretary at the Ministry of Defence, speaking to the Institute of Government recently about the attitude, often, of Select Committee members from across this House:
“They seem to live in a resource unconstrained world…in the end I’ve got a limited amount of money and I have to prioritise.”
Those are words we need to hear.
There is another way to free up money within that £136 billion and improve outcomes for patients that could lead to our having more money for NHS staff— that is, to focus on improving quality, something that hardly ever gets a look-in in this House. If we look at the work that the Government are doing with the Getting It Right First Time programme, we see a 25-fold variation in infection rates for patients. Not only is going through that a deeply unpleasant experience for a patient, but the cost of surgical infections can vary from £75,000 to £100,000. If we get this right, not only do we treat patients better but there is more money to put into staff pay.
It goes on and on. Many hospitals are not using the right hip implants—they are using more expensive non-cemented hip implants. We get better outcomes with cemented implants that actually cost less.