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The National Health Service

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 3:21 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Philippa Whitford Philippa Whitford Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 3:21 pm, 23rd October 2019

As people in the Chamber may know, my husband is German and therefore I know that system in Germany relatively well. I would point out that the hospitals do not collaborate there either. As it is about income for the hospital, surgeons and clinicians will not always refer a patient on even though they know there is an expert down the road. I would not particularly defend that. I lost my sister-in-law two years ago, and the bills were still coming in for almost a year. That is quite a stressful and upsetting system. Not everything is covered. Patients still, as in many insurance systems, have to cover a gap, which can be significant and quite painful for them. These systems could not generate the epidemiological data, or anything like the treatment and outcome data, that is generatable in all four of the UK health services, because they do not have a nationwide system.

When I was back on the Health Committee for a short time this spring, we heard talk about the changes to the Health and Social Care Act. It is critically important that those go ahead, because there are perverse incentives within that legislation. At the moment, the tariff is paid to a trust only if patients are admitted. That is a perverse incentive against managing people in the community, or even prevention. It is important that section 75 is done away with completely so that there is not pressure on commissioning groups to put things out to tender, because that is a wasteful process. I remember reading about £500 million wasted in Nottingham, where there were preparations for a tender, then the private company did not go ahead and then it did go ahead.

All this is taking money away from patient care. That is the basis of the argument about publicly provided services. I am sorry, but the quips about drugs and so on by the Secretary of State were childish. Was he suggesting that nurses and doctors go into the North sea to drill for oil, or that that is the suggestion from the Opposition Benches? It is not the suggestion from anyone on the Opposition Benches that drugs would not be purchased. It was just a childish response. Having private companies pulling NHS England apart undermines it, fragments it and makes it not patient-centred, and being patient-centred should be the goal of every single health service across the UK.