Healthcare (Devon)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:45 pm on 18th October 2016.

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Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne The Minister of State, Department of Health 3:45 pm, 18th October 2016

My right hon. Friend would not expect me to be drawn on any of the specific options. I would not want to be seen to be influencing the consultation prematurely or, indeed, at all until we see the recommendations that come out of it.

It has come out of the investigations leading up to the consultation that every day more than 500 people in north, east and west Devon are being cared for in a hospital bed who do not need to be there. That is at the heart of the challenge that we face not just in Devon but across the country, as the hon. Member for Burnley mentioned.

The system is keeping people in community beds or acute beds longer than they need to be because of discharge challenges. That gets back to the initial remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon about whether we are integrating the consultation properly with improvements to social care. It is important, when we come to look at the recommendations arising from the consultation, that we take into account the capacity that will need to be created in social care to provide alternative models of care if the number of beds is reduced.

The formal consultation concludes on 6 January. As I have said, I will not comment on specifics while that is under way, but I strongly encourage my right hon. Friend, all other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, and those who were not able to because they are elsewhere in the House today to ensure that their views are taken into account. The next phase of the success regime will look at how services are provided in acute hospital settings, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon highlighted, as did my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox in his characteristically robust contribution. I am sure that they will make their views known in the consultation that we anticipate will follow next summer, and the clinicians involved with the acute services will be preparing their recommendations.

My right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon is aware that the success regime plans are part of a broader sustainability and transformation plan that covers the whole of Devon. That creates the opportunity for health and local authorities—not just NHS bodies but local authorities with responsibility for social care—to work together to try to formulate plans that give care packages the kind of integration and coherence that hon. Members have sought for Devon. It will build on the work that has been done by north, east and west Devon’s success regime and on the “Case for Change” published by South Devon and Torbay CCG in September. The latest iteration of the plan is due to be submitted to NHS England this Friday.

Before I conclude, I can confirm that I will write to my right hon. Friend on the Exmouth out-of-hours service. I understand that he has a meeting with the Minister responsible for NHS property services later this month, so he will be able to take up his concerns then. On other challenges that were mentioned, we recognise that there is pressure on recruitment and retention of clinicians in rural areas. Hon. Members will be aware of the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to try to recruit 25% more doctors over the next few years; of our plans to recruit up to 10,000 more nurses over this Parliament; and of the announcement, last week, that we will be introducing a new category of nursing associate to provide more capability. We are acutely aware of those needs.

It is the responsibility of local NHS organisations to determine how local services are delivered. Hon. Members have made some important points, and I urge them to do so as part of the consultation. I hope that we will have another opportunity to discuss the forthcoming recommendations.