My Lords, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health to an Urgent Question earlier this morning in another place. The Statement is as follows.
It is a report that recognises the real challenges facing the NHS but is essentially positive and optimistic. It says that continuing with a comprehensive tax-funded NHS is intrinsically doable, and that there are,
‘viable options for sustaining and improving the NHS over the next five years’.
The report says that the challenges of an ageing population can be met by a combination of increased real-terms funding, efficiencies and changing the models of care delivered. It also says that,
‘decisions on these options will need to be taken in the context of how the UK economy overall is performing’.
In other words, a strong NHS needs a strong economy.
The report suggests detailed new models of care, putting out-of-hospital services front and centre of the solution, delivered through greater integration between primary, community and specialised tertiary sectors alongside national urgent and emergency networks. These can help reduce demand significantly for hospital services and give older people in particular the personal care that we would all want for our own parents and grandparents. It talks about continued opportunities for efficiency savings driven by innovation and new technology, and suggests that they could be increased above the long-term run rate of efficiency savings in the NHS. It talks about reducing variation in the quality of care in the wake of the tragedy in Mid Staffs and how the new CQC inspection regime is designed to drive up standards across the system. It says that to do this we will need to move to much greater transparency in outcomes across the health and social care system. Finally, it makes important points about better integrating the public health agenda into broader NHS activity, with a particular focus on continued reductions in smoking and obesity rates.
The Government warmly welcome this report as a good blueprint for the direction of travel needed for the NHS. We will be responding to its contents in detail in due course but we think it is an important contribution to the debate. We are proud of how the NHS has coped with the pressures of financial constraint and an ageing population in the last four years, but we also know that to sustain the levels of service people want it needs to face up to change: not structural change, but a change in culture about the way we care for people.
Given that the report has been welcomed by all sides of the House, I also hope that this can be the start of a more measured and intelligent debate about the future of the NHS, where all sides of the House recognise our shared commitment to its future and focus on the best way to achieve the strong and successful NHS the whole country desires”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.