Madam Deputy Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a statement on the work we are doing to keep our country safe this winter. Today, we have published our health and social care approach to winter. This shows the preparations we are making so that health and social care services remain resilient, joined up and available to patients over the coming months, and it sets out what actions the public can take. As this plan shows, we are also doing everything in our power to give our NHS what it needs and keep it standing strong this winter, including through our plans to recruit more staff, give greater support to the NHS workforce and bolster capacity across urgent and emergency care. For example, the NHS has given ambulance trusts an extra £55 million to boost staff numbers this winter; there is nearly half a billion to fund an enhanced discharge programme; and we have measures to reduce pressure on accident and emergency departments, reduce waiting times and improve patient flow.
This document comes ahead of a critical winter for our NHS. We face the challenge of fighting covid-19, and the new omicron variant, along with the other challenges, such as flu, that winter can bring. We are doing everything we can to strengthen our vital defences. One of our main defences is, of course, our vaccination programmes, and we are expanding our booster programme, which hit the milestone of 19 million doses yesterday, along with delivering the largest flu vaccination programme in UK history. Yesterday, we announced how we will be buying a total of 114 million additional Pfizer and Moderna doses for 2022 and 2023, which will future-proof our Great British vaccination effort and make sure we can protect even more people in the years ahead. Another defence is antivirals, and it was fantastic news that yesterday another covid-19 treatment was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, after it was found to be safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate covid-19 infection.
Just as we tackle the virus, we are also tackling what the virus has brought with it. The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on the NHS and led to a backlog for elective care. To fix this, the NHS needs to be able to offer more appointments, operations and treatments, and we need to adopt new, innovative ways of working so patients keep getting the best possible care. We are determined to maximise the capacity of the NHS to keep elective services going over the winter months so that people can keep getting routine treatments such as hip surgery and diagnostic tests. Today, I am pleased to update the House on the £700 million fund that we announced in September for elective recovery. This transformative funding, which is being split across all regions in England, will support 785 schemes across 187 hospital trusts. It will help reduce waiting times for patients by providing more operating theatres and beds, and greater capacity for our NHS. Today, we have published the regional breakdown for this funding, which was allocated on a fair basis, according to weighted population, to make sure there was an equitable spread across the country. This includes £112 million for the north-east and Yorkshire, £131 million for the midlands and £97 million for the north-west. At least £330 million will be invested in the NHS estate and a further £250 million will be spent on digital initiatives that aid elective recovery. Over £600 million from this fund has already been committed to approved bids, such as for new wards at University Hospitals Birmingham, a new South Mersey elective hub and a new, modular unit in Castle Hill Hospital in Hull. This investment will have a huge impact, and this is the beginning not the end of our investment, as we are continuing to identify and assess submitted bids for investment in the remainder of this financial year. It is part of £5.4 billion that we have announced to support the NHS response to the pandemic in the second half of the year and it builds on the work done ahead of last winter, where we invested £450 million to upgrade A&E facilities in over 120 separate trusts, to boost capacity. This is a Government who back the NHS. Ahead of what will be a testing winter, we are putting everything behind our health and care services, so everyone can access the services they need when they need them.
I conclude by urging everyone to play their part this winter by taking simple steps that can help our NHS. People should get the jabs they need for flu and covid-19 when the time comes, and should follow the rules that we have put in place. If they do that, we can protect not only the NHS but the progress that we have all made. I commend the statement to the House.
I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement. I pay enormous tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend Jonathan Ashworth, who did a tremendous job as Labour’s longest-serving shadow Health and Social Care Secretary and worked constructively with the Government in response to the pandemic’s challenges. I intend to do the same.
In that spirit, I welcome this week’s announcements on the vaccine and booster roll-outs. I know from my own experience this year of kidney cancer and covid that some of the best people in our country work in health and social care. They are at the heart of my response.
NHS waiting lists stand at almost 6 million. Almost one in 10 people in England waits months or even years, often in serious pain and discomfort, because the Government have failed to get a grip on the crisis. Everyone understands that we are in the midst of a global pandemic that has placed the NHS under unprecedented pressure, but that does not excuse or explain why we went into the pandemic with NHS waiting lists at record levels and with unprecedented staff shortages.
Ministers want people to believe that the winter crisis is simply the result of the challenges of covid, but in reality, the entire health and social care system has been left dangerously exposed by their choices throughout the last 11 years. Before the pandemic, there were waiting lists of 4.5 million, staff shortages of 100,000 and social care vacancies of 112,000. This week, the National Audit Office detailed starkly that things are set to get even worse, with waiting lists set to double in three years.
Ministers cannot possibly believe that what we have been given today is a credible plan to meet those enormous challenges. If it were a genuine plan to prepare for the winter, why has it arrived on
That Government had a serious plan to reduce waiting lists with 45,000 more doctors, 89,000 more nurses and the biggest hospital-building programme in our country’s history. The programme of investment, reform and clear targets delivered a decrease in waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks. Although bricks and mortar and technology are important, and we do not sniff at the investment the Minister has outlined, the central challenge of the NHS winter crisis is a shortage of professional staff.
A credible plan to tackle the NHS winter crisis, which was foreseeable and foreseen, would have been published long before
I join the shadow Secretary of State in paying tribute to his predecessor, Jonathan Ashworth, who is my near neighbour in Leicestershire. Although we may have occasionally crossed swords across the Dispatch Box, he is a deeply honourable and decent man. I also take the opportunity to pay tribute to Liz Kendall, who is planning to take maternity leave in due course. She is a doughty champion for social care and the sector. I know that she will be much missed in her time away from the Dispatch Box.
I genuinely congratulate Wes Streeting on his post, although after that response, I do so with a degree of trepidation about what we might have in store for us in the months ahead from him challenging us—quite rightly. He is extremely diligent in all the roles he performs, so I welcome him to a challenging but fantastic role.
I will be relatively brief in my answers, because I am conscious that Fridays are for private Members’ Bills and private Members’ speeches. We brought the statement to the House because we believe it is important, given that it is going to the media, that we give the House an opportunity to question it.
The shadow Secretary of State was right to pay tribute to the workforce—the social care workforce and the health workforce, as well as all the other key workers who have helped get us to where we are in this pandemic. The workforce are the golden thread that runs through our NHS and through social care. Buildings and technology are important, but they are, essentially, the tools that the workforce use to provide that vital patient care.
We have a clear plan not only for winter, but for the recovery of waiting list times and for driving down those waiting lists. Ours is the party that has given the NHS record funding. Even before the pandemic, we put the £33.9 billion increase into law: we said we would do it, and we did do it. We are backing our NHS to give it the tools that it needs.
One issue on which I agreed with the hon. Gentleman is prevention. He is right: we need to look not only at the symptoms and the consequences in treating people, but at prevention of long-term and serious illness. He was also right in what he said about fixing social care, but I would urge a bit of caution. In 13 years we had two Green Papers, one royal commission and the 2008 spending review, all of which were designed to fix the social care problem. Result: nothing. This Government said they would come forward with a plan, and have come forward with a clear and coherent plan. I pay tribute to the Minister for Care and Mental Health, my hon. Friend Gillian Keegan, and indeed to her predecessor, my hon. Friend Helen Whately, for the work that they have done in grappling with this very challenging issue.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned hospital buildings. Again, he was right: we are building 40 new hospitals. I would, however, say to him and to other Opposition Members that they should be very careful when talking about this subject. We all know that one of the biggest challenges we face with capital in our NHS is the millstone of PFI debt around the necks of NHS trusts—private finance initiative programmes put in place under the last Labour Government. We are still paying for that.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his post, and I suspect that on many occasions in the future we will have further such exchanges across the Dispatch Boxes. I am sorry that on his first outing in his new role he is facing me rather than the Secretary of State, but it is a pleasure to be opposite him.
Charming as ever.
We are the party of our NHS. We are backing it with the resources and support that it needs to get through this winter.
I thank my hon. Friend for his statement. Can he confirm that it is the Government’s policy to encourage the reopening of mass vaccination centres to get through the bulge of booster jabs that we need? In that regard, will he congratulate the South Suffolk & North East Essex integrated care system, which has once again secured facilities at Harwich international port, and will he thank the port for offering those facilities again? We are hoping for a mass vaccination session on 19 and
Of course I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute not just to Harwich port but to his local healthcare system, about which he and I have spoken on many occasions. It does an amazing job: its willingness to find innovative solutions to boost our booster rates is exactly what we need to see. I commend everything that his local trusts are doing.
When my hon. Friend Liz Kendall and I spoke to social care professionals from the Wirral last night, they made it clear that the crisis is not to come; the crisis is right now. They have staff shortages, and those in work are knackered and devastated at what is going on in social care. My hon. Friend Mick Whitley and I wrote to the Secretary of State, but we have received no reply. Will the Minister go back to the Department, obtain a reply to my letter, and tell me now, today, what we are doing to secure more staff and better pay in social care?
As the hon. Lady knows, I do not have responsibility for social care. The Minister for Care and Mental Health is sitting next to me and will have heard what she said and will take it back to the Department to see whether a letter in response can be expedited.
We are fixing the system for the long term, but my hon. Friend the Minister has announced £162 million that is already going into the bank accounts of organisations to help support the social care workforce. Alison McGovern is right that we need short-term support, but we also need a long-term solution. We are putting the money in to support this vital sector.
I thank the Minister and the Government for the eight successful bids into University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, which will see new wards opened and will go some way towards helping our local NHS through the winter. What a stark contrast that is with the Labour years. When the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was built it was supposed to cost about £500 million, but that has rolled into billions of pounds’ worth of private finance initiative debt. Is that not the difference between us and the Opposition?
My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for Birmingham and his local trust. It is always a pleasure to announce more money going into his trust, and he is right to highlight the Labour party’s record on PFI.
The question that will be asked by people in those parts of the country where the ambulance service is already in crisis, such as Cornwall and Shropshire, is: how quickly can they get this money? We are three weeks from Christmas and we are already seeing a crippling of the service in these areas. When will they see improvement?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that ambulance trusts across the country are under pressure, which is why they have already been given an additional £55 million, well in advance of this winter, to help them prepare for and manage the pressures they are experiencing. This money is on top of that, but they already have additional funding to help support them through what will be a very challenging winter.
This Government are investing an additional £34 billion in the NHS this year alone. Does my hon. Friend agree that this money needs to go to the frontline and that we need to ensure that we get value for money?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting both the investment and the need for us, as the custodians of the taxpayer’s pound, to make sure that the money is well spent by implementing innovation and reform so that it gets to the frontline and delivers patient care, which is exactly what we are doing.
I have a sneaking suspicion that we will not get to the second private Member’s Bill today, so I hope it is okay if I mention that I am enormously grateful to the Government. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has just texted me with the good news that the Government and I, and all the charities, will be working together on acquired brain injury. We will now have a national strategy across all Departments. It is a miracle that the Government have suggested that I should co-chair it with the Minister for Care and Mental Health, because I can be very irritating—[Laughter.] I see I have united the House. Seriously, this is a really good day and I hope we will be able to make a dramatic difference to the millions of people in this country who have suffered an acquired brain injury. Answer that!
I have never found the hon. Gentleman to be irritating in any way, and I have always enjoyed my interactions with him on a range of issues. On a serious point, I pay tribute to him for his campaigning work on this issue. It is a huge step forward, and I know the insight he will bring, working with the Minister for Care and Mental Health, will genuinely make this a strategy of which we can all be proud. I congratulate him on his achievement.
My constituents in Watford will no doubt welcome the £700 million of funding detailed today to support the NHS this winter. Will my right hon. Friend please confirm that the investment will directly improve services for patients across the NHS? Will he also share my thanks to Watford General Hospital and all its staff for the fantastic work they continue to do at this time?
I am not right hon., but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the promotion. Of course I pay tribute to the staff at Watford General Hospital and, indeed, to him for his volunteering on the frontline in that hospital trust during the pandemic. He is absolutely right. As I said to my hon. Friend Felicity Buchan, it is vital that this money gets to the frontline and is used to improve patient care, which is exactly what we intend to do.
I am shocked and saddened by reports of a 23% increase in physical assaults on staff in Nottinghamshire hospitals in the past year, including 436 assaults on NHS workers in Nottingham hospitals. As we head into the season of Christmas revelry and hopefully responsible celebrations, will the Minister join me in condemning this completely unacceptable violence, which should never be part of any NHS worker’s job, and can he set out what he is doing to prevent such assaults and to protect and support NHS staff?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady; I had the pleasure some months ago of visiting one of her local hospitals, where I had the opportunity to speak to staff. They do an amazing job. No one, irrespective of the role they perform, should be subject to intimidation or violence in doing their job, still less those who are working hard to save lives, to protect us and to get us through this pandemic. I join with her entirely in condemning both physical and verbal assaults on members of our emergency services. I highlight the important legislation that went through recently to increase the penalties, and pay tribute to those responsible for getting it on the statute book—Chris Bryant once again. No one, absolutely no one, particularly in our emergency services, should be subject to abuse of any sort while doing their job.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who rightly highlights the hugely important contribution of GPs to our health system. We continue to look at the best ways to support them, not only by recruiting more GPs and supporting existing ones, but by investing in general practice buildings to ensure they have the tools to do the job.
My local hospitals, Hammersmith and Charing Cross, and their staff are under huge pressure. Until two years ago, the Government’s plan was to demolish Charing Cross hospital, so it is a welcome U-turn that it and Hammersmith hospital are now in the creatively titled 40 new hospitals programme. Leaving aside the fact that Charing Cross has been around for more than 200 years and is thus not really a new hospital, all my constituents want to know is how much investment there will be and when it will finally arrive.
I have not yet had the privilege of visiting the hon. Gentleman’s hospitals in this role; maybe at some point in the coming months, perhaps when they are not quite so busy, I will do so with him—if he will have me. We have committed to the investment, but it is important that that investment programme is run as a programme, with all the hospitals being looked at in terms of the phasing and profile of the investment to ensure it delivers the results we want. On that specific point, knowing the interest he has taken in it, I am happy to meet him to talk specifically about his local hospital project and the improvements to be made.
I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement, particularly the extra £112 million for north-east Yorkshire. Our NHS is a priority for everyone in this House and, indeed, a priority for every one of my Darlington constituents. Does he agree that putting our £33.9 billion cash boost on the statute book demonstrates this Government’s and our party’s unwavering commitment to the NHS?
I think it does exactly that, and demonstrates this party’s and this Government’s commitment to the NHS. What my hon. Friend has also demonstrated, as always, is his unwavering commitment to his constituents in Darlington and to championing their cause in this House.
I was born in the then relatively modern maternity unit at Wythenshawe hospital in my constituency. After 53 years, I am afraid one of us is beginning to look a little old and tired. The Minister knows we have a strategic regeneration framework for the whole site, with world-class breast, cystic fibrosis, heart, lungs and burns care facilities. We have the money in the bank to do it, but because of archaic Treasury rules we cannot get on with it. Come on, Minister—let us change those rules.
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that it is not him who is looking a little old or worn around the edges. I understand the point he makes, and he and I have met about this particular issue, which goes back to what counts against capital allocations in terms of accounting. He tempts me to change Treasury rules; I fear that could be career-limiting, as I am not a Treasury Minister, but I will continue to talk to him and work with him to see whether we can find a way to allow the project to proceed.
I am reassured to see that applications to study nursing and midwifery have risen by 21% this year alone. Having recently joined my midwives on their March with Midwives up the high street in Guildford, I know that midwives urgently need their numbers boosted. Will my hon. Friend confirm that we remain on track to deliver 50,000 more nurses by the end of this Parliament, as we promised in our manifesto?
The hon. Gentleman showed admirable brevity in making his point very clearly, as ever—[Interruption.] I suspect he faces a bit of competition from his hon. Friend Mike Kane for the funding. In my recollection—forgive me if I am off on this—I think that Halton and Warrington have submitted a bid for funding as part of the next eight. There is considerable interest in this. We are evaluating all those at the moment and, in the coming months, we will work that down to a shortlist. It would be wrong for me to prejudge that process, but it is not wrong, of course, for Mike Amesbury to continue championing his local hospital and its cause.
I welcome today’s announcement and join the Minister in paying tribute to all those working for the NHS. The biggest challenge in mid-Essex, and I suspect nationally, is access to primary care, particularly managing to get through on the telephone line and, after that, obtaining an appointment. Can the Minister say any more about what the Government are doing to address that?
My right hon. Friend is right to highlight primary care, essentially, as the front door for many people into the NHS system. GPs and general practice have done a fantastic job. They have worked very hard, but it has been very challenging. The Secretary of State announced additional money to support GP practices in returning to face-to-face appointments and in seeing more people—we have seen significant investment in that. The percentage of face-to-face appointments continues to go up, which I know matters to a large number of all our constituents.
Two weeks ago today, my hon. Friend was very generous with his time and in his support for the tragic case of my constituent, Jessica Brady, who passed away aged 27 from cancer. Will he confirm that the funding to support the NHS and the focus on policies such as the community diagnostic hubs, along with some of the other things that we discussed two weeks ago, will help people, including in Hertford and Stortford, to get the referrals that they need?
I remember that Adjournment debate very clearly. My hon. Friend made an incredibly moving and powerful speech, highlighting Jessica’s situation, what happened to her and her circumstances. My hon. Friend made the point about the importance of early diagnosis and a holistic approach to a patient’s symptoms, and then diagnosis and treatment. The investment that we are putting into diagnostic hubs will help to do exactly that and bring those diagnostics to the heart of our communities, allowing more people to be seen more quickly.
I thank my hon. Friend for the £700 million that he has announced this morning; my Don Valley constituents will be pleased to hear that. While I have the Minister’s attention, will he thank all the volunteers in Doncaster and all the constituents who have come forward to have their jab? And is there any chance of a new hospital?
I will certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all the volunteers and all those who have come forward for their jabs. For a brief moment, I thought that that was where he was going to end, but he is a proud champion of Doncaster, just as you are, Madam Deputy Speaker, and it would have been very strange were he not to conclude by lobbying once again for the new hospital that he wants. I pay tribute to him for that.
I welcome the £131 million for the midlands that the Minister has announced today. I am very aware, though, that my constituents in East Leake are being served by a health centre that is the oldest in Nottinghamshire and which is far too small for the population growth that we have seen in recent years. Twenty months ago, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care—my hon. Friend Jo Churchill—promised at the Dispatch Box that we would have a ministerial visit to East Leake so that the Department could see what we were dealing with. I completely understand that that was impossible at the height of the pandemic, but that has long passed, so will the Minister recommit to that visit today and take that request back to his Department, because despite repeated chasing by me and my office staff, we cannot get a date from it in the diary?
Order. It is very important that we do not go off the boil in terms of briefness of questions. The Minister is being very good at being brief in his answers.
It would be easy to commit the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend Maria Caulfield, to a visit because she is not here. Equally, I am conscious that East Leake is just up the road from my constituency, so it may be that my hon. Friend gets me instead. I will certainly look into that visit.
Following the point made by Mike Amesbury, the greatest challenge that we face to recovery from covid in Warrington is that our hospital is too small. Warrington trust recently submitted a bid for a new purpose-built hospital. Will my hon. Friend assure me that, in the new year, he will look favourably on Warrington?
My hon. Friend, along with many right hon. and hon. Members, is doing his bit to push the cause of his local hospital investment bid. As I said to Mike Amesbury, I commend that, but it would be wrong for me to be drawn while the process is still under way.
I thank my hon. Friend for his statement on health and social care planning. The worry is, of course, that the omicron variant will put a lot of pressure on that planning. Will he update the House on where the Department has got in crunching the data on how dangerous or not omicron will be?
The latest statistic I have on the number of cases in this country is, I believe, 42. That work is still being done. We have seen various news reports today on things that might be encouraging, but I encourage everyone to wait and see while that analysis is done. It will take two to three weeks for the scientists to do their amazing work in understanding whether this new variant is more infectious and more virulent as well as how it responds to therapeutics and vaccines, and I am afraid that we will have to be patient while they do that work. Hopefully, they will come back with positive news, but it is too early to say.
I welcome the publication of the health and social care approach outlined by the Minister. The details of the funding breakdown to help tackle a backlog in elective care will undoubtedly provide hospitals with the clarity and support that they need. However, we also need to reduce the number of people remaining in hospital when they no longer require medical care. Does he agree that one possible option to help alleviate that would be intermediate care provision that is a step between hospital and home?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that. My hon. Friend the Minister for Care and Mental Health has done a huge amount of work on both investment and working with local systems to improve hospital discharge for those who do not need to be in hospital any more, to give them that step-down support, be that domiciliary care or in other settings. In the current context, we must do that safely, but she is working extremely hard to deliver that and doing a fantastic job.
The investment that the Minister has announced together with the 100 community diagnostic hubs will make a big difference in helping people to get the referrals that they need. Does my hon. Friend agree that early diagnosis depends on being able to see the appropriate clinician face to face where necessary, whether in hospital or in a GP’s surgery?
My hon. Friend is right. The key words are “where necessary”, and that is a clinical judgment. I have highlighted the improvements that we are seeing in terms of the number of face-to-face appointments going up in primary care. Equally, we do not want to lose the benefits of telephone appointments or other appointments for those who wish to interact in that way. It is about trying to craft the system around the patient and taking those clinical judgments into account.
Will my hon. Friend allocate a portion of the enhanced winter discharge funding to mental health support for young people? I have had another secondary school student take their own life—that is my crisis. We need more mental health support and out-of-hospital provision for young people.
My hon. Friend highlights the hugely important point that over winter we face challenges not just in physical health but in mental health, particularly as we come through the pandemic. One reason that we are investing £500 million in mental health catch-up is that we know how vital it is that we do not just talk about parity of esteem but recognise it in the resources that we put in.
My constituents in Blyth Valley will welcome the £700 million in funding for the NHS. May I thank the staff in the sterilisation unit in Cramlington, the A&E hospital for Northumberland, for all the work that they have done? That goes to prove that we are a proactive Government, not a reactive Government, when it comes to healthcare.
I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the team in the sterilisation unit in his local accident and emergency hospital. He is absolutely right: throughout the pandemic and the Government’s existence we have given the NHS the resources and the backing that it needs to get on with the job.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. This money is being allocated to the regions, then to individual trusts. A large amount of that money has already been allocated to specific projects that have been announced today. The rest of the money, when allocated to local systems, will then be allocated by that local system—the people who know their area best.
Staff in hospitals in Nottinghamshire are working hard, as we have heard, sometimes in difficult circumstances. Today’s announcement includes an extra £4 million of spending for hospitals in Nottinghamshire. Does my hon. Friend agree that that will make a real difference to patients in Nottinghamshire, and will he join me in thanking staff in Nottinghamshire hospitals for the hard work that they are doing at the moment?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the work of the staff in his local hospitals. He is absolutely right to highlight the fact that that money will make a huge and real difference to patient care in his local hospital trust and in his local area.
Will the Minister join me in thanking our fantastic primary care services across Teesside, without which we would not have had our world-leading vaccine roll-out? Will he come to Redcar and Cleveland to visit fantastic GP surgeries such as Normanby medical centre and the Saltscar surgery in Redcar, which have been doing all that they can under tremendous pressure?
It looks as if I might be going on tour again; the same thing happened when I last did one of these statements. I am happy to go to “Bluecar”—or Redcar, to call it by its proper name—to see my hon. Friend in his constituency, and to make such a visit when it can be arranged.
I welcome the Minister’s statement and the gargantuan amounts of money that he, his team and the Government are putting into the NHS. Can he provide me and my Dudley constituents with some assurances that that will translate into additional capacity and bringing down the covid-induced backlogs?
Absolutely, I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He rightly alludes to the fact that the inputs are important, but for those of us on the Government Benches, it is the results they bring—the outputs—and what we do with the money that matter. We will ensure that that money is well spent, harnesses innovation and delivers even better patient care and access to his constituents and many others.