NHS Winter Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:49 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire 2:49 pm, 10th January 2018

Like many Members, I wish to start by paying tribute to our primary care staff—the GPs, practice nurses, receptionists, community staff and district nurses; all those working in acute trusts in my local hospitals; mental health staff; social care workers; ambulance staff; and of course the volunteers, to whom we owe so much. They are a team, and any part of the NHS is weaker if one part is weaker, which is why I hugely welcome the change in the Secretary of State’s title, whereby we now have Department of Health and Social Care. That is a long overdue move, but we should all welcome it.

At my local Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the increase in activity in recent years has been phenomenal: 83,000 more people were seen in under four hours in A&E in 2016-17 than in 2009-10; 17,000 more operations and 46,000 more diagnostic tests were carried out in 2016-17 than in 2009-10. I pay tribute to the enormous amount of work. There are 166 more hospital doctors and 224 more nurses there now than in 2010. All that is welcome, as was the £1.116 million of extra winter pressure money put in.

I have spoken to the director of operations at the hospital this morning, and she told me that it was the busiest new year we have seen in a long time and that this situation had started two days before new year and gone on until this weekend. She said things have returned to a more normal basis now and, although they have a number of contingency beds open there, things are nothing like they were over the new year period. I pay tribute to the extraordinary way in which they coped with very difficult circumstances.

I received a letter on Monday from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which said that on an average day it receives 3,000 calls but that on new year’s day, it received 4,800 calls. I defy any ambulance trust in the country to be able to cope with that significantly increased number of calls adequately. Indeed, I understand that on the days before and after the number of calls was also topping 4,000 a day. Our constituents want us to tell it as it is, and I received an email from a practice manager in one of my local surgeries saying that on 4 January there was a six-hour wait for a blue light ambulance. Just as the Prime Minister apologised, I would absolutely want to say, as a Member of Parliament, that I am not satisfied with that situation and we have to try to do better, notwithstanding the heroic efforts made.

We have committed to train 25% more doctors and 25% more nurses, and I hugely welcome the new nursing associates and nursing apprentices. What are we going to do in future, however, to put the NHS on more of an even keel? Let me briefly suggest six areas where we can make progress: first, it is unacceptable that nearly 10% of NHS England’s budget goes on type 2 diabetes; progress on tackling obesity is vital; more progress on the Getting It Right First Time scheme, which is saving billions for the NHS, will help; I make a further plea to the Treasury to make sure that we stop GPs leaving—those on the old pension scheme are disfavoured by the tax treatment; and we have to drive through the sustainability and transformation partnerships to really integrate health and social care.