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Thank you, Mr Gapes. I am sure hon. Members will be keen to return for the remainder of my speech, however long that turns out to be. It is of course a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Faisal Rashid on securing this extremely important debate. It is also very timely as we eagerly await the NHS long-term plan. He made a powerful case about the weaknesses in the Government’s approach and the disgraceful lack of parliamentary oversight of very significant changes to local and national services. I agree that the creation of the NHS was one of the great achievements of this House and this country.
My hon. Friend was right in his analysis of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. He highlighted his concern about accountability in CCGs and the potential for conflicts of interest in them. He also highlighted the lack of transparency that has characterised the STP process since its inception, and he summed up the benefits, from the patient’s perspective, of good integration —of course, no one wants to have to repeat their story on multiple occasions.
My hon. Friend talked about the challenges that the NHS faces with its infrastructure. He will know that those challenges have been exacerbated by the continual capital raids on budgets. His analogy about a football team was amusing—sadly, my own team appears to be taking things rather too seriously at the moment—but it did sum up a lot of the confusion and the illogical approach that we have to healthcare in this country. He was of course right to say that the hard-working staff of the NHS bear the brunt of these many pressures. He also made the point that many of the changes that we have been talking about have not been made in the most open way.
We also heard from my hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh. She followed up her question to the Prime Minister with a much more detailed, and devastating, critique of the proposals that affect her constituency. I was staggered to hear that £50 million has been spent on consultation so far. It was also disturbing to hear how bad things are at her accident and emergency department now, before we enter the real depths of winter. I was staggered to hear about the approach to consultation there. I am sure the Minister will want to address that. [Interruption.]