Health Questions

19th December 2017

Philip Dunne responds to MPs’ questions on his portfolio in the Department of Health.

NHS Funding (Autumn Budget)

6. What his priorities are for the additional funding allocated to the NHS in autumn Budget 2017. [903018]

14. What his priorities are for the additional funding allocated to the NHS in autumn Budget 2017. [903027]

The autumn Budget committed to backing the NHS, so that by 2019-20, it will have received an additional £2.8 billion of revenue funding for frontline services, including £337 million for winter allocated last Friday and £3.5 billion of new capital investment by 2022-23 to transform the estate.

I welcome the recent Budget announcement of billions more funding for the NHS, particularly the extra support to prepare for the winter. Will the Minister tell me what share of funding my local hospital will attain this winter?

My hon. Friend needs to be congratulated in this House on being a champion of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. The trust has been through some difficulty, and he has stuck with it and supported it. I can confirm that the trust was allocated up to £2 million of funding last Friday; I congratulate it on that. I am sure that he would also join me in congratulating the trust on recently being awarded the title of the eighth most inclusive employer in the UK.

Does my hon. Friend share my delight at the £41 million capital allocation that was announced in the recent Budget? Does he agree that that huge sum of money will enable us not only to maintain the present excellent services at Southend hospital, but to enhance and develop them further for the benefit of all local residents?

My hon. Friend has worked tirelessly with his neighbouring colleagues in Essex to secure not only the £41 million to which he refers. In fact, that figure is a component of the £118 million capital allocation made to the Mid and South Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership area in the Budget. This will provide significant investment not only in his local hospital in Southend, as he as mentioned, but in Basildon and in Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. I am sure that he and his colleagues in Essex welcome that.

My local clinical commissioning group in north Derbyshire has been placed in special measures by NHS England. It has been forced to cut £16 million over just six months and to bring forward the closure of the Spencer ward in Buxton before any proper alternative is in place due to a lack of funding. Does the Minister not agree that the Budget funding is too little, too late?

The hon. Lady will be aware that the special measures regime was introduced to help trusts that are having difficulty in meeting quality performance standards to improve their quality. They receive support from NHS Improvement in order to do that. If she would like to write to me with the specific details of her trust’s situation, I would be happy to take up the case. But as far as I am concerned, her trust is on an improvement journey.

Given that about a quarter of the additional funding goes to patients with neurological conditions—from strokes to Parkinson’s —what steps is the Minister taking to reduce the often appalling delays between the onset of disease and access to occupational and physical therapy? Will he agree to meet a charity from my constituency of Twickenham called Integrated Neurological Services, which is saving lives and money by drastically reducing that timeline?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that centralising cardiac services in particular into acute cardiac hospitals is having a significant impact on improving access to treatment by reducing the time it takes to get diagnostic tests and initial treatment, and is therefore saving lives. Specialisation is working in London and in other parts of the country where it is being applied. I am sure that he would welcome the recent allocation to Kingston Hospital of up to £1.3 million to help with winter pressures.

The Minister visited Kettering General Hospital earlier this year and saw for himself that a record number of patients are being treated with increasingly world-class treatments. Will he confirm that the hospital will get £2.6 million to cope with winter pressures this year?

My hon. Friend never fails to highlight the success of Kettering General Hospital. I am delighted to confirm that £2.6 million will be available for that hospital this winter. We are working hard with the hospital management, through the special measures regime, to improve performance in that trust.

Bed occupancy rates across London last winter were running very near to 100%, including at Whipps Cross University Hospital in my constituency. With the much-vaunted extra funding, what will the bed occupancy rate have been by the end of this winter?

Bed occupancy rates are high at this time, not least following the recent cold snap, which has put additional pressure on hospital trusts. We have used some of the funding provided in the March Budget to increase the rates of delayed transfers of care to improve patient flow throughout all hospitals, and that has led to a slight reduction in bed occupancy in the run-up to winter.

 

Topical Questions

 

T5. The Secretary of State will be aware of the decision by my Northumberland CCG to close in-patient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital last year. It was done on the premise of underuse, but local sources continue to indicate that it was due to a shortage of nurses at our excellent Northumbria A&E hospital. Following a passionate campaign led by Katie Scott and the Save Rothbury Community Hospital supporters, Northumberland County Council has referred the decision to the Secretary of State for review. I would be grateful if he could update the House on the timescale for a decision. [903042]

I can confirm that the health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee has submitted a request for a review by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. I understand that officials have reverted to the committee to clarify the terms of the referral. Once that has come through to the Department, I am sure that the review will take place.

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There are many very committed individuals working in health and social care services in Somerset, but one challenge is getting enough registered nurses into the system to allow them to integrate. What can the Minister do to help to get more registered nurses?

My hon. Friend will be aware that last week we published the workforce strategy. One major focus was on meeting the Secretary of State’s commitment to increase the number of registered nurses by 25% and to broaden the routes into nursing. There is a commitment to expand the nursing associate role, which is helping to provide opportunities, through an alternative route, for healthcare support workers to become registered nurses.

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Will the Minister provide an update on efforts to move Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust out of special measures, and on the status of the promised £29 million for much needed capital improvement programmes?

As my hon. Friend is aware, I visited all three hospitals in the trust. I am pleased to be able to announce to him today that the Department of Health has concluded its analysis of the outline business case for the £29 million allocated in July and that it has been approved.

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I would like to thank the Minister for listening very sensitively to the victims of Paterson, the rogue surgeon, many of whom are constituents of mine. Does he agree that the evidence from the Hillsborough inquiry is that a bishop-led inquiry can indeed get justice and closure for victims? Will he join me in wishing the Bishop of Norwich great success in getting a good outcome from this inquiry?

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for her role in helping to support the victims, many of whom, as she said, are constituents of hers. We are pleased that Bishop James has agreed to take on this inquiry. Bishops provide the ability to empathise with victims and their families, which might not always be the case with judge-led inquiries. As she rightly points out, the Hillsborough inquiry was led by a bishop, but so too is the current Gosport inquiry, while the Morecombe Bay inquiry was led by Bill Kirkup, rather than a judge.

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I warmly welcome the extra £1.1 million to help with winter pressures at Luton and Dunstable Hospital, and I can tell the ministerial team that the merger with Bedford Hospital is proceeding well, but it needs £150 million of capital. May I ask that favourable consideration be given to that in the allocation of the £3.5 billion announced in the Budget?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Chancellor provided a package of £10 billion in the Budget last month to be invested in the NHS, of which £3.9 billion will come from the Treasury. All bids for capital are being assessed through the STP prism. The proposal that his area will be making will be assessed against others. As far as I am aware, no such proposal has yet been made to NHS England, but it will obviously be looked at in due course.

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May I thank the ministerial team on behalf of my constituent Susan Bradley for finally laying the remedial order for single-parent surrogates, and can they assure me that they will do everything they can to get it through Parliament as quickly as possible?

An all-party parliamentary group has been established this week, I believe, to take this issue forward, and I look forward to speaking to that group, if invited, next month. The remedial order will follow due parliamentary process, which involves its being laid for 60 days and then, after an interval, for a further 60 days.

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May I thank the ministerial team on behalf of my constituent Susan Bradley for finally laying the remedial order for single-parent surrogates, and can they assure me that they will do everything they can to get it through Parliament as quickly as possible?

An all-party parliamentary group has been established this week, I believe, to take this issue forward, and I look forward to speaking to that group, if invited, next month. The remedial order will follow due parliamentary process, which involves its being laid for 60 days and then, after an interval, for a further 60 days.

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