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The National Health Service

Part of Speaker’s Statement – in the House of Commons at 5:15 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough 5:15 pm, 23rd October 2019

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point, and I was about to come on to it. It is great that we are making record investment in services such as mental health and spending more than we did before. It is great that we are introducing new targets, such as basic standards for help with eating disorders. It is great that we have more doctors, more nurses and more money. However, we are conscious, as we speak to people in the NHS, that unless we can deal with the sources of demand, fundamentally we will never be able to spend enough on all the priorities, including musculoskeletal services.

What do we need to tackle those causes of demand? We of course need the long-term plan for social care. The Minister needs to stick to his guns on public health: the sugar tax has worked. Things like the campaign against the anti-vaxxers and their pseudo-science are incredibly important, as is action on preventive social care. We should keep going with things such as the migrant health charge, which is raising money for the NHS; we could increase it. We should keep going on technology. It is so important for Ministers to help GPs to upgrade their telephone triage facilities, which would make the experience of using primary care so much better and reduce the burden.

Some of the things in the Queen’s Speech are incredibly important to help deal with these growing burdens. We need new technologies, which is why it is important to get more clinical trials going more quickly. That is why I welcome the measures in the Queen’s Speech. This is about building on the life sciences review—the Bell review—and it is very important to build on the work that the academic health science networks are doing. The potential advantage of our NHS is that it should be one of the best places in the world to do clinical trials—we have the scale—but at the moment there are too many gatekeepers and too many things stopping them.

Last but not least, there is the wonderful improvement in the NHS safety body that we are creating. From personal experience, I can say that when my daughter was born some things went wrong. We had a wonderful junior registrar who did lots of things right, but a few things went wrong, and my wife gave birth without anaesthetic. After that, unfortunately, her placenta did not deliver and the consultant—we never found out who this was—removed the placenta manually with no anaesthetic, and it was incredibly painful for my wife.

It is important, as my hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin said, that we learn lessons in the NHS without attributing blame. Not attributing blame was one of the fundamental recommendations following the Mid Staffs inquiry: we have got to be able to learn lessons. When we started to complain about what happened to my wife, people closed ranks. My wife is a doctor, and we would never in a million years have sued the NHS, but they did not know that. We never even found out who the consultant was who had got things wrong, so I do not know whether the lessons were learned from that mistake; I hope they were.

Having a no-blame culture, having this new body and learning from the experiences of painful things such as the Bawa-Garba case are the ways in which we can have truth and reconciliation, with a system that learns. One of the most important things we could ever do to improve the NHS is to make it a self-improving system that is constantly learning and constantly getting better.