NHS Finances

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:11 am on 14th March 2006.

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Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Conservative, Beverley and Holderness 10:11 am, 14th March 2006

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for suggesting that he is ever loyal, which, as some of my colleagues have pointed out, is not true. None the less, he is doing a very loyal job today and putting a brave face on a situation that is almost impossible to defend. We have had a 68 per cent. increase in the number of managers in the NHS, dwarfing the number of clinical front-line staff. It is only in a target-driven, centrally directed and bureaucratic NHS that we need such huge numbers of managers. People want decent local hospitals in which the local management, who are appreciated, do not fill in endless forms and reports-back to meet artificial Government targets, but focus on their local population.

That is the answer. Because of the central controls driven by the centralist state, we have cricked-neck policing and cricked-neck health care. Managers are unable to look down and provide answers to the needs of the local population. Instead, they are for ever turning their necks to look up as they feel their chains being pulled by Ministers; and as the panic increases in the Department in question, the yanks on the chain increase too. It may be hard for some hon. Members to imagine—at least not without pleasure—the Minister playing with a chain in that way. [Interruption.] I am getting into dangerous territory and will rapidly move away from it. If the Minister wants to intervene, I should be grateful. In fact, I should be grateful if anyone would.

There is a growth in inequalities. There is a financial crisis, and we have seen the departure of the chief executive, a senior civil servant in the Department of Health. The Government's response is to blame others. We will not look to the Minister today to play the game of dubious statistics and pretending that all is well despite what is happening in our constituencies. In my constituency, the Hornsea minor injuries unit has been saved. We are grateful for that. Its hours have been slashed, although it can take seven hours to get by public transport from the Hornsea area into Hull and back again. That is the reality for rural areas. The same hospital has lost 10 beds and there is a waiting list. One old lady—the hospital can be seen from her home—was on a waiting list while she was in Hull and unable to return and be supported by friends and family. That was because of cuts made purely on the basis of the trust's financial position.

In the same trust, in Withernsea, which is also in my constituency, the minor injuries unit that used to operate 24 hours a day has had its opening times halved. That, again, is the result of financial chaos and crisis in this Government's NHS. Perhaps it is inevitable that the statistics will be rolled out in an attempt to show that all is well, but I hope that the Minister will recognise the real issues right across Members' constituencies. As a Member representing a constituency in the north of England, I can tell my hon. Friend Tony Baldry that the north is not unaffected.