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The National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:40 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin 5:40 pm, 23rd October 2019

I don’t know about you, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I am delighted that the age of austerity is over. We have heard from the Government today a commitment to record investment in the NHS. In my political lifetime, I cannot think of any Government of any political colour that was so committed to the NHS or a Prime Minister and Secretary of State similarly committed. And of course that must come on the back of a strong economy, not the magic money tree we hear about so often in politics.

I am also delighted that we are talking about something other than Brexit. I hope that we can get the withdrawal agreement and Bill through so that we can pass the Queen’s Speech and legislate to make sure that these improvements to the NHS actually take place.

I want to go local for a moment and thank the Minister and all the team at the Department for ensuring that Shropshire and the borough of Telford and Wrekin have not lost out in this record investment in the NHS. In fact, in Shropshire we are seeing the largest investment in the NHS in its 70-year history: £312 million. That is fantastic news. What does it mean locally? For my constituents, it means that most of the planned surgery—the majority—will take place at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Telford. My constituents will no longer have to take a journey to Shrewsbury for the majority of their visits to their local hospital trust. That is good news.

There is a debate about the accident and emergency award, but I am delighted that today we have heard from the Secretary of State that the A&E has been saved at the hospital in Telford. In fact, it will be the very latest in modern thinking on how A&E services are provided, under the banner of “A&E local”. Of course, some cynics say, “Maybe that’s ‘A&E lite’”. Well, it will not be as long as I and my hon. Friend Lucy Allan are on the case, working in tandem for local people to ensure that we have an A&E that provides what local people need.

I am glad that the Secretary of State, in releasing the £312 million to Shropshire and the borough of Telford and Wrekin, said it was conditional upon the A&E at the Princess Royal University Hospital being adequately run and sufficiently resourced, with the right staffing levels and expertise and with the clinical and medical cover it requires to service the people of Telford and Wrekin. I and, more importantly, my constituents welcome that commitment.

I am also delighted that new services will be coming into the hospital. There is a lot of doom and gloom in some parts of the local media in Shropshire, which one would expect from Opposition voices in other parties, but the good news is that we are going to see a new cancer unit; the good news is that we are going to see a new MRI scanner; the good news is that we are going to see an extra £7 million spent on a completely modernised radiology service; the good news is that we have just recruited 180 nurses to the trust; the good news, further to that other good news, is that we have now recruited 17 extra A&E doctors to the trust.

May I digress for a moment and raise the issue of recruitment, which overlaps with that of social care? I hope that the Ministers will work closely with Home Office Ministers on the points-based migration system to ensure that we attract not just highly skilled doctors from around the world, but others with fewer qualifications and skills— whether it be from India, the Philippines, or other Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries —so that we can provide that expanded social care service. Indeed, I hope that we will continue to retain and recruit the very best from the European Union, when we cannot recruit domestically.

Many positive developments are resulting from the Future Fit programme in Shropshire. Let me also say briefly that I am delighted by the Secretary of State’s announcement today of the immediate provision of an additional £400 million, which will enable us to expand our women and children’s unit and ensure that we have a high-quality, modernised, midwife-led unit. That is good news as well.

Finally, let me issue an appeal to Ministers on the subject of mental health, which I raised earlier today. Can we ensure that veterans who are leaving the military and making the transition into civilian life have a pathway of care?