NHS 10-Year Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:50 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour) 6:50 pm, 19th February 2019

With five and a half minutes of speaking time per year of the plan, I suspect that we have not quite done it justice tonight. However, we did manage to hear from nine Back Benchers during the debate. While I cannot refer to everyone in the time I have, I want to draw particular attention to certain contributions.

My hon. Friend Mike Hill spoke about the importance of improving GP access—something we can all relate to—and the importance of mental health, a big driver of the 10-year plan. My hon. Friend Dr Drew made important points about threats to services in his constituency, and we heard such points across the Chamber. I was particularly pleased to hear from my hon. Friend Grahame Morris, who, of course, speaks about cancer treatment from personal experience. He rightly pointed out the deficiencies in the 10-year plan in relation to that. My hon. Friend Bambos Charalambous was absolutely right to highlight the postcode lottery in palliative care. As with other areas such as neonatal care and IVF, it varies depending on where in the country someone lives. He also made a very important point about the cancer workforce.

I want to say a few words about the workforce. In recognising their invaluable work, which we thank them for, we also recognise—we on the Labour Benches do, at least—that without a fully staffed, respected and motivated workforce, the NHS would simply not be able to deliver the service that our constituents deserve. Last June, there was at last some Government recognition of the importance of the workforce, when the 10-year plan was announced. The then Health Secretary—now the Foreign Secretary—said:

“Alongside the 10-year plan, we will also publish a long-term workforce plan recognising that there can be no transformation without the right number of staff, in the right settings and with the right skills.”—[Official Report, 18 June 2018;
Vol. 643, c. 52.]

We now know, however, that the workforce plan will not be with us until some time later this year, so is it not the case that without a workforce plan, we simply do not know how much of the 10-year plan is achievable?

As we know, the House of Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS said that the lack of a workforce strategy

“represents the biggest internal threat to the sustainability of the NHS”.

Amazingly, the 10-year plan makes no reference to the actual numbers of staff expected to be employed during this period, so I put in a written question to the Minister about how many staff the NHS expects to employ by the end of the period covered by the 10-year plan. I was told in response:

“The Department does not hold the data requested.”

So there we have it in black and white: the Government do not have a clue.