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The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): Mendip primary care trust has responsibility for the planning of the new Frome health park development and I am advised that the trust is fully committed to progressing that project.
Mr. Heath: We look enviously at areas that have new hospitals. Ours was announced in 1997 and we were told in 1998 that it would be opening in 2000, yet we are still looking at a field rather than a new hospital. I know that Mendip PCT is trying to sort out the financial problems, but given the desperate need to replace the existing Frome Vic, given the high expectations in the area for a new hospital and given that the people of Frome have themselves raised £500,000 to equip the new hospital, will the Minister agree to see me and others in the area to find a solution and ensure that Frome actually gets the new hospital that it so richly deserves?
Ms Winterton: I am aware that there have been delays in finding the right site and gaining various planning permissions, but I understand that the PCT is currently in discussion with three preferred bidders to ensure that the NHS gets the best value for money. I will keep an eye on progress in that respect and if the hon. Gentleman would find it helpful to have a meeting at some time in the future, I would be happy to participate in it.
The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid):
As I have announced this morning, the west and north Cumbria area now has 413 more nurses than in
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1997an 18 per cent. increase. The area also has 101 more doctors than in 1997an increase of 19 per cent. Those form part of an additional 106,080 extra doctors and nurses working in the NHS in comparison with 1997.
Tony Cunningham: I thank my right hon. Friend for those superb statistics, but he will know that my constituents do not use only the excellent hospitals in north and west Cumberland. I know from my own personal experiencemy wife and baby recently had fantastic specialist treatment in the special baby unit in the Royal Victoria infirmary, Newcastlethat my constituents also have to travel to other parts of the country, so are the figures mirrored throughout the rest of the country?
Dr. Reid: Yes, indeed they are, and our policy of investing in and training staff will continue, as there is no greater priority for the NHS and its patients than the staff. The annual NHS work force statistics published this morning show that in 2004 we recruited an extra 8,000 doctors, 11,200 more nurses and 3,000 more allied professionals. Those figures show a year on year growth in the number of doctors, nurses and other front-line health care staff in the NHS, and I am proud to say that there are now more nurses, doctors, scientists, health care workers and therapists than ever before117,000 doctors and 397,000 nurses. I can therefore assure my hon. Friend that the health service in west Cumbria and throughout the country is vastly improved from where it was under the Tories.
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): For the benefit of the hon. Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) and others, let us complete the picture that was published in the work force census this morning. It shows that the rate of recruitment of general practitioners and nurses has slowed last year in comparison with previous years and that the increase in the number of doctors and nurses in 200304 was 3.9 per cent., while the increase in the number of those working in central administration, managers and senior managers waswait for it7.8 per cent. The number of administrators in the NHS is rising at twice the rate of the number of doctors and nurses. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman and his
Mr. Lansley: The question, Mr. Speaker, is one that the country will want answering. I am pledging today that the next Conservative Administration in the next Parliament will increase the number of doctors by 20,000, the number of nurses by 30,000, the number of health professionals by 30,000 and will not increase the number of administrators and bureaucrats in the NHS by twice the rate of the number of doctors and nurses. Why has the Secretary of State increased bureaucracy at that rate?
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
(Lab): As my friend the Member for Workington (Tony Cunningham) said, the
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statistics are superb. Doctors often stay where they were trained, so is there not a case for a new medical school serving Cumbria and Lancashire?
Dr. Reid: Actually, we have opened four new medical schools, but my hon. Friend makes a good case. We will be looking at proposals on that subject. Like me, he will be proud of the fact that, today, we were able to announce the largest ever annual increase in consultants1,900; the largest ever annual increase in GP1,165; and the largest ever increase in midwives900.
The problem with writing one's script before the facts are published is that one misses some of the falls, and we ought to be prepared to accept that there have been falls. For the first time, the percentage of the work force who are managers and senior managers is less than 3 per cent. The figure has fallen to 2.8 per cent. I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) did not remark on that fact.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): It is for local primary care trusts to assess and determine local priorities for access to chiropody. The 2004 figures, published today, show that there are now 3,941 chiropodists working in the national health service, a 20 per cent. increase on 1997.
Mr. Forth: That sounds good, but it is a complacent answer. Why did the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists say recently that elderly patients are being bumped off waiting lists? Is not this another example of the Government trying to make everybody believe that things are a lot better when, in reality, our vulnerable elderly citizens are suffering what can be a painful and difficult condition? Will the Under-Secretary look again at the figures that he has been given and get real?
Dr. Ladyman: I do not believe that the society said any such thing. There has been a substantial increase in the number of chiropodists in the NHS. However, PCTs are focusing them on people with specialist needs that require a specialist podiatrist and chiropodist. Increasingly, PCTs are providing simpler and routine services such as nail cutting through other measures not included in the figures that we count. In fact, the total number of people who get access to all forms of NHS chiropody is substantially higher now than ever before.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire)
(Lab/Co-op): Is not the National Pensioners Convention right to call for an annual free comprehensive health check for pensioners, as such checks often pick up conditions that would otherwise worsen over the ensuing years? Is not that particularly the case in terms of podiatry and a condition such as diabetes, which often has symptoms that a podiatrist can help to alleviate?
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Dr. Ladyman: My hon. Friend is right. We need to look closely at what we can do to prevent older people from becoming sick. As part of the new contract, GPs will have additional responsibilities to ensure that they do that with their patients. We have announced plans in the national service framework for older people and in other measures to ensure that we move the NHS from the sickness service it has been traditionally to a genuine health service. My hon. Friend is right and, in order to do that, we must ensure that the health care needs of older people are being met on a preventive basis, which is what we are trying to do.
Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): The Under-Secretary will be aware that, on many previous occasions, we have raised our concerns that many elderly people are being denied essential NHS foot care, but the Government continue to be in denial, as illustrated by the answer given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). May I raise the case of an 82-year-old ladyI can supply full details afterwardswho is partially sighted, almost deaf, suffers from angina and emphysema, has suffered three strokes and is unable to bend to attend to her feet? She has been told that she no longer qualifies for NHS care for her feet and has been forced to go private, something she may not be able to afford in future. As this is a far cry from an isolated example, will the Under-Secretary now accept that there is a real problem here and that, in a target-driven culture, any NHS services not targeted are suffering? What is he going to do to put the situation right?
Dr. Ladyman: That is typical of recent announcements from the Conservative party. It is based on one case from more than 2 million people who are receiving chiropody. If the hon. Gentleman really wanted me to explore that lady's case he would have told me about it before asking his question so that I could have looked into it. On the face of it, that lady should have access to specialist care and the hon. Gentleman obviously does not care about her as much as the NHS does. Let me make it absolutely clear that primary care trusts have a responsibility to ensure that people who need the specialist service of a chiropodist receive it. That is what is happening, but that does not mean that they should be going to specialist podiatrists for simple services such as nail cutting.
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