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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

My hon. Friend makes an important suggestion. We considered such a thing when I was at the Department of Health and Social Care, but we decided that it would be very expensive. One of the tragedies is that many people who suffer actually make no legal claim because they are so committed to the NHS, so we have a system that gives huge amounts of money to one group of people and nothing at all to those who decide that they do not want to sue the NHS.

We need to look at tort reform, because most barristers and lawyers working in this field want the outcome of their cases to be that the NHS learns from what went wrong and does not repeat it. Unfortunately, that is not what happens with the current system. The involvement of lawyers and litigation causes a defensive culture to emerge, and we actually do the opposite. We do not learn from mistakes, and that is what we now have to grip and change.

I want to say something positive, because if we do change that we will be the first healthcare system in the world to do it properly. We are already by far the most transparent system in the world, mainly because people in this place are always asking questions about the NHS—and rightly so. Healthcare systems all over the world experience the same problem. It is difficult to talk openly about mistakes because one can make a mistake in any other walk of life and get on with one’s life, but if someone dies because of the mistake, that is an incredibly difficult thing for the individuals concerned to come to terms with. That is why we end up on this in this vicious legal circle.

On capital to revenue transfers, I was a guilty party during my time as Health Secretary. There were many capital to revenue transfers because we were running out of money, so capital budgets were raided. I fully understand why the Opposition wanted to table amendment 3, but I respectfully suggest that the trouble is that it would result not in more money going into the NHS but in more money going back to the Treasury from unspent capital amounts. The real issue of capital projects is getting through the bureaucratic processes that mean that capital budgets are actually spent.