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NHS Reorganisation — [Mike Gapes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:47 pm on 12th December 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 3:47 pm, 12th December 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. It is a pleasure to respond to Faisal Rashid. I am pleased that he secured this debate, and I agree with him that the NHS is a great credit to our country. I know that the Opposition spokesman will have heard me say yesterday—I will repeat it—that the Government and I, as Minister for Health, greatly value the staff who work in the NHS. It is our absolute intention to ensure that they recognise that and that we continue to show that.

I want to start with a few facts, because having listened to what the hon. Member for Warrington South described, I think there are other things that are worth pointing out. There are 11,000 more nurses in the NHS than there were in 2010. There are 18,200 more doctors than in 2010. Almost nine out of 10 patients are seen within four hours in an emergency department. We are committed to 5,000 training places for doctors in general practice—this year saw 10% more than we aimed to achieve. Of course, this is the highest level of funding that the NHS has had in its 70 years. The hon. Gentleman raised a number of other issues, as did the Opposition spokesman, and I will try to respond to those in my speech.

Siobhain McDonagh made a contribution. I have immense respect for her. Anyone who knows her knows that she always argues her case passionately and stands up for her constituents, and she did that again today. She and I have occasionally shared joint endeavours on St Helier Hospital. I think we both agree that there is a substantial case for keeping the acute services there. I think we would both agree—I say this in a constituency capacity—that the infrastructure needs upgrading, and I think we have had that discussion. She rightly points that we have had another consultation this year. As a Minister, I say that we expect any significant service changes to be subject to exactly the full public consultation she has described, if it is going to happen, and that the proposals must meet the Government’s four reconfiguration tests, which are support from GP commissioners; strengthened engagement with the public; clarity on the clinical evidence; and clarity and consistency with patients’ choice. She says that there have been rounds of consultations, as I certainly saw when I was on the council—I think she was already a Member of Parliament then—under Governments of all colours over the past 20 years.

It is the same with Jim Shannon. I have had the pleasure of taking interventions from him in several debates. He is always a powerful advocate for his constituents. I listened carefully to his point about out-of-hours care, which may have been slightly out of the scope of the debate. Yesterday, I had the chance to visit the North Middlesex University Hospital. Some of its work on the integration of out-of-hours care and triaging in A&E moves along the lines that he discussed. I have seen that several times.

To address the crux of the debate, between 2016 and 2036, the UK population is expected to increase from 65.6 million to 71.8 million, which is a growth rate of about 10% in 20 years. In the same period, the number of people aged 75 and over is expected to grow by 64% from 5.3 million to 9 million. Those figures are clearly something to celebrate, showing that the NHS is doing exactly what we want it to, but they mean that more will need to be done to make sure that those years are quality years.

For the NHS to continue to deliver high-quality care in the next 20 years, as it has done for the last 70 years, we need to look at new models of care that promote more joined-up care across the NHS and social care. In the past few years, the Government have supported a number of pilots at local and national levels to test new models of care that bring together the NHS, local authorities and wider public services to develop new ways of ensuring that services are delivered in a more joined-up way. Those areas have seen some improvements in access to services, patient experience and moderating demand for acute services.

It is time for the NHS to move beyond those pilots and embrace wholesale transformational changes across the whole system in every part of the country. It is therefore developing a 10-year plan for its future, which is underpinned by a five-year funding offer. To support the NHS in delivering for patients across the country, the Government announced a new five-year budget settlement for the NHS, in which funding will grow on average by 3.4% each year to 2023-24. The hon. Member for Strangford, who has just left the Chamber, welcomed the fact that that means the NHS budget will increase by more than £20 billion compared with today, underpinning the 10-year plan to guarantee the future of the NHS.

The hon. Member for Warrington South remarked on sustainability and transformation partnerships, and commented on his own local STP. The Government are fully committed to NHS England’s vision of STPs transforming how care is delivered and putting the system on a sustainable footing for the future. We will back STPs where they are clinically led and locally supported.

The hon. Gentleman questioned some aspects of local democracy. Each partnership has to set out agreed priorities and say how they are going to be delivered, and have a strategic priority to work with partners in local authorities. The Cheshire and Merseyside STP is making some progress in building those relationships, but he is right to acknowledge—I acknowledge it as well—that it is an extremely large and diverse area.

Clearly, the hon. Gentleman and Justin Madders will recognise that there are now nine local footprints, including Warrington Together. The idea is that they will develop some of the integration suggestions and plans, and the consultation with local authorities to which the hon. Member for Warrington South referred. The STP brings local areas together to tackle the challenges, and I think he would acknowledge that it makes sense to do that across a bigger area, so the smaller areas build into the larger area.

Last week, the Government announced that they were supporting the Cheshire and Merseyside STP with £11 million in capital spending for improving emergency department capacity at the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals and for a 12-bed, tier-4 child and adolescent mental health services unit at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston challenged me on STPs, so I will say that, in their more mature form, they are integrated care systems that promote collaboration between NHS bodies, local government and local communities. The 10-year plan will set out how they will spread the integrated care models that have been developed and tested through the whole vanguard programme.

There was also a challenge about what were formerly known as accountable care organisations and are now called integrated care providers, with several questions about that. At a small number of sites, commissioners are looking at how contractual models can support more integrated care. To support that, NHS England has developed the draft integrated care provider contract which, if introduced, will give the NHS the option of having a single lead provider that is responsible for primary, community and hospital services, with the aim of integrating services across traditional silos.

If NHS England chooses to introduce a contract for the ICPs, Parliament will have a chance to debate the regulations. I recognise that the regulations are subject to the negative procedure, so there is not an automatic debate, but as the hon. Member for Warrington South will have spotted, in those circumstances, if Parliament decides, there will be an opportunity to have that debate. NHS England has recently concluded the public consultation on the draft ICP contract and we expect a response in due course.

I want to touch on the premise that the ICP contract is privatisation. It is completely misleading to suggest that an integrated provider model is a step towards privatising the health service. The NHS will always offer free healthcare at the point of use—that is not just the Government’s view. I am sure that the Library briefing that the hon. Member for Strangford challenged me to read notes the evidence from the Health and Social Care Committee, whose Chair, my hon. Friend Dr Wollaston, said that the evidence received by the inquiry into integrated care—the report was published in July 2018—was that ICPs

“and other efforts to integrate health…and social care, will not extend the scope of NHS privatisation and may effectively do the opposite.”

That is quite powerful and I hope that the hon. Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston and for Warrington South take note.