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NHS Funding Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:09 pm on 27th January 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Conservative, South West Surrey 6:09 pm, 27th January 2020

It is a pleasure to see you in your place, Madam Deputy Speaker. I refer hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests as a trustee of the charity Patient Safety Watch. I also wish to correct a detail in the last speech I gave in the House in which I said there were four instances of wrong site surgery every day; I should have said every week. It is still an enormous number, but it is important to get the record absolutely right.

I congratulate the Health Secretary on putting the NHS front and centre of the Government’s agenda. When I was in his job, I fought two general elections with Prime Ministers who were rather keen not to talk about the NHS. The second of the two did want to talk about the social care system, and I think both of us, with the benefit of hindsight, rather regret that. But if the Conservatives want to be the party of NHS, we have to talk about it, and my right hon. Friend is doing precisely that.

I thank my right hon. Friend for putting into law the deal for the future of the NHS that I negotiated in May 2018. It is the challenge of the holder of his job—formerly mine—to stand at the Dispatch Box and constantly say that the NHS has enough money, when in reality it very rarely does. One of the most difficult challenges for Health Secretaries of all parties is meeting people who are denied access to a medicine that is not available on the NHS. He did that with the Orkambi families just before the election, and he did a brilliant job in securing access to that medicine, which will transform the lives of many families. I hope that he will now use the same magic to get access to Kuvan for sufferers of phenylketonuria, including Holly and Callum, the children of my constituent Caroline Graham, who kindly agreed to a meeting.

On funding, the central issue of this debate has been whether the amount the Government propose is enough. The facts are relatively straightforward: we spend 9.7% of our GDP on healthcare, and the EU average is 9.9%—almost the same. Our spending is almost identical to the OECD average and slightly less than that of the majority of G7 countries. Those numbers only reflect the situation today, though. We are in the first year of a five-year programme whereby spending on the NHS will rise by about double the growth in GDP, so we are heading toward being in the top quartile of spenders on health as a proportion of GDP among developed countries. That is a significant increase.