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There has been almost a clean sweep in the Department of Health, except for Lord Warner in the other place. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), too, is still hereI beg her pardon; I said almost a clean sweep. It is curious that the Minister in the Lords has become the Minister responsible for NHS delivery. One would have thought that we would have the Minister with that responsibility in this House. It is particularly surprising that it is the Minister who showed a conspicuous failure to act on health care-acquired infections in the course of the last Parliament who is now, ironically, to be in charge of NHS delivery.
While I have the chance I also welcome the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) to his responsibilities and, I hope on behalf of the House, thank the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) for his contribution in the past. I do not see him at the moment, but I am sure that those thanks will be conveyed to him. He did many services for the House over his years as a health spokesman, not least in identifying the extent of hidden waste in the NHS, which the Government belatedly accepted, and the work that he did on hospital cleanliness, to all of which I pay tribute.
The election campaign taught us many things. As one went around the country and visited places such as Dover, for example, one met people in the hospital there providing long-term rehabilitation to people living with head injuries. When we visited Kent county council offices, we could talk to staff who were developing innovative ground-breaking work on tele-medicine initiatives that are about providing not only an alert if elderly people are in trouble at home, but continuous screening and virtual consultations, so that people living
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with chronic diseases have to spend far less time in consultations with practitioners and, more to the point, are far less likely to be admitted to hospital.
As we visited the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital, where Abigail Witchalls is currently being treated, we saw a specialist hospital that is not only providing the finest quality of care, but doing so in old buildings that urgently need renewaland achieving minimal rates of infection after surgery notwithstanding those difficulties. One could visit community centres, as I did in Crawley, where staff are working to support carers as well as to provide care to service users. In Derby, for example, one could meet enthusiastic staff who are designing and providing a service that is optimised for children and adolescents, and not treating children merely as young adults to be put into national health service hospitals on the same basis as adults. One could also visit Leeds general hospital and meet staff who are initiating new pilot work on the use of primary angioplasty so that instead of patients having thrombolysis when they have a heart attack, they go straight to angioplasty, opening up their arteries so that the long-term outcomes are dramatically better even than with thrombolysis. The pilot project found that a surprisingly large volume of work would have to be done.
As we went around the country, the first thing that we discovered[Interruption.] Notwithstanding the apparent derision of Labour Members, the first thing that we discovered was the first thing that one discovers every time one visits hospitals, GPs and NHS staffthe commitment of those staff. Our first responsibility is to pay the fullest possible tribute to all of them.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): The hon. Gentleman has spent eight minutes both congratulating people on their new appointments and going on a Cook's tour of the United Kingdom. He has already taken as long as Back Benchers will get to speak, as they are limited to 10-minute speeches. Will he get on with the debate, or is he going to speak for an hour?
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): This is a proper intervention, as my hon. Friend obviously cares about the staff who work in hospitals. Has he had a chance to look at the community hospitals in this country, and particularly at Wells community hospital, which does so much hard work on behalf of many of my constituents in the northern part of my constituency? Is it not vital that small community hospitals be given major priority?
My hon. Friend takes me on to the second part of what I have to say about when one goes around the country. Perhaps the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) will think that this is a more appropriate subject for the discussion. One discovers other things as one goes around the country. General practitioners from Lancaster to Leicestershire, and in Milton Keynes, are concerned about bureaucracy and the impact of targets on the care that they can
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provide for patients. In places such as Wells and north Norfolk, or Hornsea in the Beverley and Holderness constituency, people are seriously worried about the closure of local services in community hospitals. In places such as Bury, and Chatham and Aylesford, people are deeply concerned about access to maternity services and the closures that might occur.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman referred to his visit to my constituency, but was not the most significant point about it the fact that when he tried to get into the hospital, he was not allowed through the front door?
Mr. Lansley: I do not know what point the hon. Gentleman thinks that he is making, because many hospitals chose not to let any politicians on to their premises during the general election campaignwhich is their prerogative. Is he disparaging the campaign run by local people who have used maternity services at Fairfield hospitalif I discuss that matter, the hon. Member for Huddersfield will tell me to get on with my speechbecause the people of Bury, North would find it surprising if he were to disparage people who want services to be maintained in Bury?
Dr. Starkey: The hon. Gentleman did me the courtesy of pointing out that he visited my constituency rather than that of the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster). When he talked to GPs in Milton Keynes, it would have been unnatural if the GPs had not made various complaints, but did he note that Milton Keynes primary care trust has received record funding under this Labour Government, and that funding will be provided on projected population growth for the first time from next year?
Mr. Lansley: During the election campaign, the Prime Minister visited Milton Keynes hospital, where he said that he discovered that many women who are routinely referred for examination for breast cancer turn out to have tumours. Eighteen months before that discovery, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and some hon. Members told the Government in no uncertain terms that up to 10,000 women a year were being routinely referred, and that those women were waiting for longer than previously for diagnosis for breast cancer. The Prime Minister suddenly discovered that issue during the general election campaign. He discovered the damaging impact of targets during his visit to Milton Keynes, and it is about time that he discovered what is going on in the national health service.
Later in the election campaign, the Prime Minister appeared in a television studio, where a concerned mother told him about the adverse impact of the 48-
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hour target on booking GP appointments. That was news to him, although the health press reported last November that the issue was on his agenda. During the election campaign, we learned that the Prime Minister does not know what is going on in the NHS and that the Government are in denial about the effects of targets on the NHS.
One year ago, the Government were in denial about cleaner hospitals, but they have suddenly discovered that cleaner hospitals are a priority. One year ago, the NHS chief executive's report did not refer to cleanliness in hospitals or infection control. One year ago, the Department of Health annual report referred to cleanliness in hospitals by pointing out that no hospitals had a poor standard of cleanliness. That situation has changed because Opposition Members, by which I mean Conservative Members and Liberal Democrat Members, together with the media and patientshere I pay tribute to MRSA Support and othershave forced on to the Government's agenda the necessity of greater cleanliness in hospitals and improved infection control.
One year ago, the Government were in denial. The section of the Queen's Speech on health shows that during the election campaign we forced on to the Government's agenda the necessity of dealing with cleanliness in hospitals, of admitting the problems with targets, of improving efficiency and of introducing choice and competition into the NHS.
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