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Funding Settlement for the health service in England

Part of NHS Funding Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 4th February 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt Chair, Health and Social Care Committee, Chair, Health and Social Care Committee 3:15 pm, 4th February 2020

They are both interesting ideas. The plan at the moment is that resource will be given to schools for a teacher to volunteer to devote a proportion of their time to this, and that there will be funding for them to do so, similar to the way in which schools have a special educational needs co-ordinator who is a teacher devoted to the special needs of the pupils in that school. I personally would have no objection if that were a separate counsellor, but this needs to be a resource inside the school—someone who is regularly at the school and who knows the children there. That is the important thing.

With permission, Dame Rosie, I would like to comment on some of the other amendments and on some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston. He rightly talked about the issues around maternity safety, and I agree that it is vital that we continue the maternity safety training fund. That is not directly the subject of one of his amendments, but it is indirectly connected to it. Twice a week in the NHS, the Health Secretary has to sign off a multi-million pound settlement to a family whose child has been disabled for life as a result of medical negligence. What is even more depressing is that there is no discernible evidence that that number is going down. The reason for that is that when such tragedies happen, instead of doing the most important thing, which is learning the lesson of what went wrong and ensuring that it is spread throughout the whole country, we end up with a six-year legal case. It is impossible for a family with a child disabled at birth to get compensation from the NHS unless they prove in court that the doctor was negligent. Obviously, the doctor will fight that. That is why we still have too much of a cover-up culture, despite the best intentions of doctors and nurses. This is the last thing they want to do, but the system ends up putting them under pressure to do it. That is why we are not learning from mistakes. I am afraid that that is the same thing that was referred to in the Paterson inquiry report that was published today: the systemic covering up of problems that allowed Mr Paterson’s work to carry on undetected for so long. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston is absolutely right on that.

I think it is a fair assessment of safety in the NHS to say that huge strides have been made in the past five or six years on transparency. It is much more open about things that go wrong than it used to be, and that is a very positive development. But transparency alone is not enough. We have to change the practice of doctors and nurses on the ground, and that means spreading best practice. Unfortunately, that is not happening, which is why, even after the tragedies of Mid Staffs, Morecambe Bay and Southern Health, we are facing yet another tragedy at Shrewsbury and Telford—I see my hon. Friend Lucy Allan in her place, and she has campaigned actively on that issue. The big challenge now is to think about ways to change our blame culture into a learning culture.