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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 6:32 pm, 4th March 2020

It is great to see two Ministers on the Front Bench. For me, health inequalities are closely linked to the health of my local NHS trust, so I make no apologies for talking about Isle of Wight healthcare in relation to health inequalities. I do so within the framework of the unavoidably small hospitals programme, which is potentially a very interesting move by this Government. I discussed it with the Minister for Health, my hon. Friend Edward Argar and the Secretary of State last week. The background is as follows: 12 national hospitals qualify as unavoidably small, and the economics of those hospitals has an impact on healthcare, especially in a place such as the Isle of Wight, which has a 100% remoteness factor, because we are separated by the sea. The diseconomies of scale over a wide range of health issues affect the ability to deliver healthcare to the same standard as on the mainland. That is part of the wider issue I am looking at when seeking an Isle of Wight deal. We reckon that the additional costs of providing healthcare on the Island to the same standard as on the mainland is about £12 million. I will not go further into the details, because of a shortage of time, but I have talked to the Secretary of State and the Minister for Health about that.

What do I intend to do about this? I am going to try to secure debates on the USH programme, in the hope that the 20 or so Members concerned, mostly Conservatives but with one Opposition Member, will join in supporting me, so that we can ensure that Ministers understand the additional pressures on these hospitals.

I will also make the case to Sir Simon Stevens for looking at increased revenue for unavoidably small hospitals, especially on the Island, which has a 100% remoteness factor. We will, though, continue to drive efficiency on the Island. Our chief executive Maggie Oldham and the leadership team are looking at doing that by linking up with Portsmouth district general hospital and with Solent NHS mental health trust, and by doing other good things so that we use public money as efficiently as possible.

I would very much like recognition from the Government that there is an additional cost for unavoidably small hospitals because of diseconomies of scale. That should translate into something in terms of revenue. In addition, when it comes to helping Islanders to get patient treatment on the mainland, there are additional costs for patient travel. I will leave it there.