It is an honour to follow Rachael Maskell. I entirely agree with her about being very careful before the NHS sells off property or land for non-health uses. There is a reason why our health facilities are in the places they are, and they could be better used for things like intermediate care.
I had the honour of visiting County Hospital in Stafford on Christmas day, and I saw the wonderful care being provided there. County Hospital is of course the Stafford hospital, which went through the Francis inquiries and the trust’s special administration. I just want to pay tribute to the staff there, who have done an amazing job in bringing the hospital up to the standard it is now at. We want more services put back into that great place, but it is an example of what can happen when people get behind change, and when the patient and safety are put at the heart of care.
I also visited Royal Stoke on new year’s day. The hon. Members for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) and for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) have already mentioned the huge pressures that the hospital has been under during the past few weeks, and I would not deny that. I saw for myself the trolleys in the corridor and the real pressure under which the staff were working, but I have to say that the care I saw there was exemplary in those conditions. As the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme mentioned, some serious issues have to be tackled, not least the fact that Stoke, and to some extent Staffordshire, are systemically underfunded, as we can see from the figures. I will write to the Secretary of State about that in due course.
I want to bring some figures to the House’s attention. They are not the most recent figures, but they are from an international health organisation—I think it was the World Health Organisation—three or four years ago, when it asked patients in a number of developed countries whether they could get proper access to good healthcare. The UK performed highest: only 4% said that they could not get good access to reasonable healthcare. In Germany, the figure for those who said they could not do so was 15%, and in France it was 18%. When we consider the challenges we face and the needs for the future—I absolutely agree with much of what has been said in this debate—we must not forget how our national health service performs and how it is an egalitarian service, providing access to people of all backgrounds across all our communities.
I fully agree with what has been said by Members on both sides of the House—by Liz Kendall and by my hon. Friend Dr Murrison—about the fact that we need a 10-year cross-party approach and that we need it urgently and quickly. The Green Paper on social care is a start, but the approach must be more extensive. I urge the Secretary of State and his new team, as well as the Minister on the Front Bench today—the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Steve Brine—who has done a great job over the past few months, to consider widening the Green Paper to cover health and social care, especially now that the Department is an integrated one. “Social Care” should not just be stuck on the end of its name.
Finally, I pay great tribute to all those who continue to work day in, day out to provide some of the best healthcare in the world. It can be better, and we must make sure that it is.