Workforce is a key priority for the Government, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked Baroness Dido Harding to develop an interim workforce implementation plan for the spring, including a 2019-20 action plan. It is right that local leaders and clinicians should be empowered to shape the services they need, which is why NHS Improvement has written to all system leaders in England to ask for their views on the vision that is coming forward.
The all-party parliamentary group on mental health’s recent report found that workforce is the biggest challenge to delivering improvements to mental health care. Given that there are 4,000 fewer mental health nurses than there were in 2010, what additional guidance and funding will the Government provide to ensure that local partnerships can recruit mental health nurses, and what are they doing to expand medical school places so that we can train more doctors, particularly in psychiatric specialties?
The hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions there. It is true that the NHS has recently asked all sustainability and transformation partnerships and integrated care systems to create new five-year plans by autumn 2019 setting out how they are going to transform services. He will know that mental health is a priority in the long-term plan, and that we are expanding the number of places for clinicians.
Cancer Research UK estimates that by 2035 there will be over half a million new cancer cases—up by 150,000 a year on 2015 levels. In order to meet the Government’s ambition of diagnosing 75% of cancers at an early stage, does the Minister accept that the NHS will need a proper training and recruitment plan for its cancer workforce, which must be fully funded in the upcoming spending review?
The hon. Gentleman is right: early diagnosis of cancer is vital for successful outcomes. The Government are absolutely committed to a cancer workforce with the skills and expertise to ensure that 75% of all cancers are diagnosed early, not just the top 10. As I have said several times, that is why we asked Baroness Dido Harding to develop a detailed workforce plan to ensure that that can be delivered.
My hon. Friend has been a champion of this cause for a long time, raising the matter on the Floor of the House several times. He can be assured that, as I said to Christian Matheson, Baroness Harding has been asked to bring forward detailed plans for the cancer workforce in her implementation plan.
Mental health nurse numbers have fallen for the second month running, and learning disability nurse numbers have fallen by 40% since this Government came to power. Nearly 13,000 mental health staff left their roles between May and October 2018, and the vacancy rate is now almost 10%. The King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust and the Health Foundation say that
“Urgent action is now required to avoid a vicious cycle of growing shortages and declining quality.”
Is it not time for Ministers to start taking such advice, rather than giving it?
The Department of course takes such things seriously. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Care met Baroness Harding last week to discuss how to ensure that there are nurses and carers to help people with learning disabilities. The money that has been promised to make that possible comes in the new financial year, which starts next week.