The interim people plan sets out how the NHS will become a great employer with the culture and leadership needed to retain staff. NHS programmes to retain its highly talented staff are already having an impact. There are now more nurses working in the NHS than at any other time in its 70-year history. In addition, about 1 million NHS workers will benefit from the new Agenda for Change pay and contract deal.
I welcome the recent announcement of a consultation on NHS pensions arrangements for senior personnel. I hope that that will look at the taper impact, which raises the effective tax rate to an unacceptably high level. Retention of key personnel is critical across the Shropshire health economy, as well as in other parts of the country. Can my hon. Friend reassure me that senior-level changes in Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust’s management will not delay the Secretary of State’s consideration of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s report on proposed acute hospital reconfiguration?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his welcome for the pensions proposals and the consultation. The Department has received initial advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel on the Future Fit hospital reconfiguration. The Secretary of State is currently considering that. He will respond to the IRP’s advice in due course, and I will ensure that he informs my right hon. Friend.
May I thank the Secretary of State again for saving the A&E department at Charing Cross Hospital, which was a very, very popular move? Our brilliant hospital will benefit from the work that the Government are doing to increase the number of nursing associates across the NHS. What more can we do to get more nursing associates at Charing Cross Hospital, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and across the whole NHS?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments on saving the hospital department—that is very important. He is right to raise the important role of the nursing associates, who deliver hands-on care in a range of complex settings. Thousands of nursing associates began training in 2017 and in 2018. Health Education England is leading a programme to recruit more than 7,500 into training in 2019, and I am sure that some of them will benefit his constituency.
Bradford NHS Trust is pressing ahead with plans to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary company. Last week, 97% of Unison members voted for strike action. Given that the trust is currently run by a temporary chair and a temporary chief executive, and is acting on guidance from a now-defunct body, will the Minister, to improve retention, call on the trust to drop these plans and keep the NHS family as one?
The hon. Lady knows that a wholly-owned subsidiary is created as a legal entity. It is 100% owned by NHS organisations. It is also the case that local trust board members sit on the boards of those subsidiary entities. It is therefore appropriate that the local organisation takes that decision.
The King’s Fund says that the earnings threshold in the Government’s immigration proposals, which was mentioned earlier, will definitely impact on the ability to retain and attract NHS staff. The proposals for a transition period during which many social care workers would only be allowed to come here for a limited time with no entitlement to bring dependants will, again, negatively impact on the ability to retain staff. When will this Government realise that immigration is good for our public services and good for our country, and that badly thought out policy in this area that impacts on the retention of NHS staff is wrong and nonsensical?
The hon. Gentleman is right—immigration has benefited the national health service. This Minister, this Secretary of State and this ministerial team celebrate the fact that global immigration has benefited the NHS. From 2021, the new system will allow people with skills to come to the UK from anywhere in the world. It will remove the cap on skilled migrants, abolish the requirement to undertake the resident labour market test, and should improve the timeliness of being able to apply for a visa.