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Miss Widdecombe: Yes, and one can bet that some of those staff are the obstetricians whom the NHS has trained but cannot find posts for. Would the hon. Gentleman prefer those obstetricians to leave the health care profession altogether rather than taking their training into the private sector, which is bailing out the Government on waiting lists?

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Does my right hon. Friend think that one of the reasons why people go to work for the private sector may be that they get the pay increases that they are promised, while the Secretary of State promises increases but does not give them?

Miss Widdecombe: It goes without saying that if the private sector ran itself as the Secretary of State runs the NHS, it would soon have no personnel at all. We have supported not only the doctors, nurses and consultants but the professions allied to medicine. Unlike the Secretary of State, we do not forget the contribution that they make. We have been supporting their campaign for better self-regulation through amendments in the Health Bill.

It would be encouraging--although I do not expect to be encouraged--if the Secretary of State would acknowledge the responsible debate in another place on trying to get better protection for those professions. I ask him to go a little bit further--although, as I say, I expect no encouragement--and agree to our amendments that would ensure that professions allied to medicine were judged by their peers on issues such as discipline and education. We also want provision in the Health Bill for protection of title. If he would agree to those amendments, it would be a fitting acknowledgement of the dedication shown by those professions in the work that they do in our health service.

While the Secretary of State is about it, he could go further and guarantee that no services provided by professions allied to medicine will be lost as a result of the creation of primary care trusts and the diversion of millions of pounds from patient care into extra bureaucracy and superannuation contributions. He will be aware that one of the great strengths of fundholding was the use that fundholding doctors made of professions allied to medicine in giving their patients an integrated health care service. He is nodding; he agrees. I am grateful for that.

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that demonstrably, not just in theory, some of those services have been lost as a result of the destruction of fundholding and the creation of patient care groups?

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): We would all accept that there is a need to regulate a number of professions

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working within the health service. Can the right hon. Lady explain why when in 1989 a report from the NHS management executive recommended a statutory system of regulation for operating department practitioners, who had sought regulation for many years, the Conservative Government did nothing about it?

Miss Widdecombe: Perhaps the hon. Lady would like to go and look at the new clause that we have just tabled. I am sure that she has not yet caught up with it.

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford) rose--

Miss Widdecombe: I have given way generously, and now I want to make some progress. I may give way to the hon. Gentleman later.

One contribution that the Government are determined not to make is to reward NHS staff for working on the millennium new year's eve. What better opportunity could there be to demonstrate that the Government can still be bothered to care about the welfare of our doctors and nurses? Although the right hon. Gentleman may bear more than a passing resemblance to Father Christmas, to our doctors and nurses he behaves like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Secretary of State has ruled out paying doctors extra money over the millennium new year, and is trying to discourage trusts from making their own good-will payments. Doctors have estimated that for working on millennium night they will be paid £4.02 an hour. I suppose that that is a bit better than the minimum wage.

To meet his ridiculous waiting list pledge, and to bail him out of a dreadful winter crisis, the right hon. Gentleman has drawn heavily on the bank of good will among health service workers, and that account is now slipping into the red. He has argued that trusts should show their appreciation on millennium night by providing transport and hot food. He has made much of his cleverly wrapped 50th birthday present to our health service, but it seems that his millennium gift to the hard-working staff is to be a limp sausage roll, a glass of flat beer and a taxi ride home.

I am not saying, have never said, and would never say, that every last wish of every doctor or nurse must be, or even could be, met, but at the very least the right hon. Gentleman should stop exerting his power to prevent trusts from offering what they feel is right and decent to their loyal and hard-working staff. He often palms responsibility off on to trusts, so if they want to make that gesture, they believe that they can afford it and it is one of their priorities, they should be allowed to do so.

Anything less would be a slap in the face, just like the slap in the face he has given to our doctors--fundholding doctors who have now been dragooned into collectives, losing flexibility and the services that meant so much to their patients. It would be like the slap in the face that he has given to our nurses, who were told first that their pay award would not be staged, but then that it was, and secondly that they would get all the money in April, but then that they would not get it until June at the earliest. Many of them are worse off than when the Government came to power. Fourteen out of 15 of them do not benefit from the higher levels of pay, and the so-called recruitment consists of importing staff, which may have a role to play, but which certainly will not solve all the problems.

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The Secretary of State has not only given staff a slap in the face, he has thrown a bath of icy cold water over them. They expected so much, and have been given so little by a Government who have consistently been more bothered about political control than patient care. The Government care only about the next day's headlines; they never finish the job. Where are the super-nurses? Does the House remember those? I do not think that even the nurses themselves remember them. A pledge was given but nothing was delivered. Concerning the trolley task force, too, a pledge was given but nothing was delivered.

The Secretary of State makes pledges all the time, but he delivers nothing--except for junior doctors, whose conditions he is making worse. He is delivering longer hours, fiddled pay figures, longer waiting lists, third-world recruitment, more pressure, and a promise that if staff do not like it, there is always a new deal officer waiting to sign them up for another half-baked Labour scheme.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember how he had the gall to say, "Let those who are despairing get out of the health service, because I do not want them there." Now he is giving that message to the overwhelming majority of health service workers, who have been told to knuckle down, shut up, work harder, work longer, stop complaining, stop expecting and thank new Labour for the new NHS. The right hon. Gentleman has failed to deliver every promise, and every worker in our health service has been failed.

Before I finish, I will let the hon. Member for Dartford (Dr. Stoate) intervene.

Dr. Stoate: The right hon. Lady professes to be concerned about the plight of the professions allied to medicine. I certainly am, because I have workedwith many dedicated and hard-working scientificofficers, pharmacists, clinical psychologists, cytologists, phlebotomists and others. Can she tell me why, 15 years ago, the Conservative Government took that group out of the scope of the pay review body, thus allowing their pay to fall by 30 per cent. in real terms? That group of people are in such a parlous state now because of the actions of the previous Government.

Miss Widdecombe: I believe that the hon. Gentleman is genuinely concerned about the professions allied to medicine. He made a distinguished speech on Second Reading--so distinguished that the Government made jolly sure that they did not put him on the Standing Committee on the Health Bill, because that speech was not 100 per cent. loyal. He, too, has been failed by the Government.

The Government have failed the health service, as well as the doctors, the nurses, the professions allied to medicine and, above all, the patients--the British people, who were fooled by the Government saying before the election that there was nothing wrong with the health service apart from the fact that there was a Tory Government, and that they could put it all right.

The Government have not put it all right. The health service is now worse than ever in terms of morale and what the funding is expected to cover, in terms of winter crises, the use of trolleys and just about everything else I could mention. They have given us not a better health service but a worse health service.

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The Secretary of State seems to think that that is funny. He either looks in another direction, like somebody following a Wimbledon tennis match, because he cannot face me, or he falls about with laughter, to hide the shame that any decent Secretary of State would feel in his position. I believe that come the next election, the Government's treatment of the health service will guarantee that they will not be in office for long.

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