NHS 10-Year Plan

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:54 pm on 19th February 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 6:54 pm, 19th February 2019

I thank hon. Members from across the House for their contributions to this debate. It is clear there is agreement on the importance and value we place on our national health service. That is why the long-term plan is such a historic moment for the public, for patients and, of course, for the staff who work tirelessly to make our NHS one of the most enduring British success stories.

I will try to respond to as many of the speakers as possible, but I agree we need a much longer debate to fully do justice to this important subject. It has been quite a collegiate debate, with Back Benchers from across the House having welcomed many of the promises in the long-term plan, although not so much the shadow Front-Bench team, whose attitude I will quickly sum up: they do not like it unless they thought of it first, and we are not putting in enough money, although considerably more than they promised in their 2017 manifesto until they did a back-of-the-fag-packet recalculation. Why can they not celebrate our NHS? Why can they not celebrate the fact that the Government are making the single biggest cash investment in our NHS in its history? Some will question, of course, whether the funding is enough for the health service to implement this vital transformation, but I remind them that this is a fully costed plan developed by NHS leaders and clinicians within the budget agreed by the NHS and with the Government.

We must also remember that the future of the NHS is not just about the additional £33.9 billion cash injection by 2023-24; it is about spending every single penny of taxpayers’ money wisely—in five years’ time the NHS budget will be £148.5 billion—which is important because our NHS is under more pressure than ever before. As my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston said, demand on A&E from type 1 attendances was 6.8% higher this January than last January—that is 2,700 more people through the doors every single day.

Of course, publishing one document will not translate all the long-term plan’s objectives into reality, which is why the NHS will develop a clear implementation framework by the spring to set out how the commitments should be delivered by local systems and ensure transparency for patients and the public. It is also why the Secretary of State has commissioned Baroness Harding, working closely with Sir David Behan, to lead a number of programmes to develop a detailed workforce implementation plan. The first stage of that will be revealed in the spring, and the rest will come forward in the autumn.

A key focus of the long-term plan is the importance of improving the patient experience, safety and flow through hospitals. The plan will support the reform of urgent and emergency care services to ensure that patients get the care they need quickly, relieve pressure on A&E departments and manage winter demands. Improving out-of-hospital care will ensure that people are treated in the most appropriate setting to avoid unnecessary visits to hospital and support quicker discharge.

Hon. Members spoke about the importance of local provision, community hospitals and local GP services. It is important that these services be decided and led by local NHS organisations that understand the local community healthcare needs, but of course we expect the NHS to work collaboratively to ensure that both urgent and routine care needs are met in a way that ensures the best possible use of NHS resources. Investment in primary and community services will increase by at least £4.5 billion, and spend on these services will grow faster than the rising NHS budget. Funding will be provided for an extra 20,000 other staff working in GP practices.

The long-term plan sets out how we will improve prevention, detection, treatment and recovery in respect of major diseases, including cancer, heart attacks and strokes—hon. Members have mentioned those today. Patients can expect the introduction of new screening programmes, faster access to diagnostic tests and new treatments and the use of technology, such as genomic testing. NHS England is already testing innovative ways of diagnosing cancer earlier, with sites piloting multidisciplinary diagnostic centres for patients with vague or non-specific symptoms, such as those common in blood cancers. The Government have pledged to roll out rapid diagnosis centres nationally to offer all patients a range of tests on the same day with rapid access to results.

Mental health has also been raised. The long-term plan renews the commitment to grow investment in mental health services faster than the NHS budget overall, with at least £2.3 billion in real terms.

The Government’s commitment to the health service is clear and undeniable. Our historic funding settlement has enabled the NHS to create a plan for the future of the system which will benefit patients now and generations to come. We will continue to support this system as it begins to put our plan into practice.

I thank the Members who have spoken this evening, and I will write to those to whose points I was not able to respond.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered the NHS Ten Year Plan.