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When we talk about the workforce, training is vital. We know from the 2018 “Mind the Gap” report on the issues at the Shrewsbury and Telford and the East Kent trusts, among others, that only 8% of trusts supply all the care needs in the saving babies’ lives bundle, so the maternity safety training fund is essential. I hope the Health Secretary will renew it, because it makes a big difference.
It is vital that we have an independent figure for the number of doctors and nurses the NHS needs, not a figure negotiated between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Treasury because the Treasury will always try to negotiate the number down and we will end up not training enough people. I know the Health Secretary is on the case.
The final distortion when we talk about funding for the NHS is the link between funding and the quality of care. It is totally understandable that many people think that the way to improve the quality of care is to increase funding, but in reality the relationship is much more complex. As the Health Secretary knows well, we pay the same tariff to all hospitals in the NHS, and with the same amount of money some of them deliver absolutely outstanding, world-class care and others do not. Almost without exception, hospitals rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission have better finances than those rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, which are often losing huge sums. The reason for that, as every doctor or nurse in the NHS knows, is that poor care is usually the most expensive type of care to deliver. A patient who acquires a bedsore or an MRSA or C. diff infection, or has a fall that could have been avoided, will stay in hospital longer, which will cost more. It will cost the hospital more, it will cost the NHS more, and finances will deteriorate. Invariably, the path the safer care is the same as the path to lower cost. That is why it is so important that we recognise that the safety and quality agenda is consistent with the plan to get NHS finances under control.
It is also why it is important to remember that the Mid Staffs scandal happened in a period of record funding increases for the NHS. So when it comes to NHS funding, transparency, openness, a culture that learns from mistakes, innovation and prevention are every bit as important as pounds and pence.