Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Lansley: I know that my right hon. Friend has been an active and tireless advocate for his constituents on the issue of Walnut Tree and St. Leonard's hospitals. The PCTs in Suffolk suffered large deficits. If memory serves, Suffolk Coastal and Suffolk West PCTs together were £18 million in deficit. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge together face a very large deficit. The risk of financial collapse certainly applies to the Suffolk health economy and my right hon. Friend is right to be concerned about it.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): While discussing the terrible deficits that have built up around the country—the Surrey and Sussex trust has an accumulated deficit of some £67 million—will my hon. Friend also reflect on the fact that the problem is not only about numbers? It is about cancelled operations and personal anxiety. It is about people having to make inconvenient travel arrangements to go further afield for
15 Nov 2005 : Column 836
their operations. It is about human misery and a failing health service. No number of letters from the Surrey and Sussex strategic health authority saying that it has been a huge success since its formation will persuade people who are suffering under this Labour Government that the health service is not in meltdown in Surrey.

Mr. Lansley: My hon. Friend is right: his area, Surrey and Sussex, has serious financial problems and he is right to say that they will manifest themselves in harm to patients. That is precisely why we say to the Government today that before the consequences of their decisions are played out in this financial year action must be taken to avoid damage to patients and indeed to their long-term interests, because often the services being cut could be part of a sustainable and successful long-term health system.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is setting out for the House his view of the facts, but will he look at some other facts? For example, when the previous Conservative Government introduced the private finance initiative why were no hospitals built? Can he explain what the impact of the expenditure was when they actually were built, and will he explain why the hospital in Halifax was not built for more than two decades? Is he now suggesting that the hospitals that were built should not have been built?

Mr. Lansley: Given that the first flagship hospital to be built under the Government's PFI scheme was in Norwich, the hon. Lady might like to ask her colleagues there about the financial consequences of the way in which that project was undertaken. I know that we needed to build hospitals and it is right to do so, but to do it, as the Government did, in a way that transferred little risk but large amounts of profit through PFI, is not necessarily the right way.

Ed Balls (Normanton) (Lab): Like many Labour Members, I am pleased that Opposition Members are now concerned about standards of patient care and the financial state of the NHS, but if my memory serves me right, £2 billion would have been diverted from NHS trusts by the manifesto that all Opposition Members supported, through the patient's passport. Was that the right policy? Did the hon. Gentleman support it then, and why does he not support it now?

Mr. Lansley: I thought we would get something better from the hon. Gentleman.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): I want to help my hon. Friend by responding to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford). In my constituency, we face cuts of between £20 million and £30 million at our local hospital, which threaten the accident and emergency department. One of the factors that makes it difficult to balance the books in Worcestershire's health economy is the cost of the PFI hospital in Worcester, one of the first hospitals to which the Government signed up. In the words of the chief executive of our local trust hospital, the hospital is "relatively expensive". When I heard the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), talking about the Worcestershire acute
15 Nov 2005 : Column 837
trust this morning, it occurred to me that there might be some panic in the Department of Health about the true cost of the PFI hospitals to which the Government have signed up.

Mr. Lansley rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I appeal to Members to make brief interventions, not long speeches.

Mr. Lansley: I am grateful, Mr. Speaker. I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride), who made an important point. I visited Redditch hospital and I know how important it is to the people of Redditch and the surrounding area that they have access to services, including the accident and emergency service at the hospital.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Lansley: I want to make some progress, but I will give way to my hon. Friends in a moment.

As my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr.   Ainsworth) said, we need to think about the consequences—

Ed Balls rose—

Mr. Lansley: What are the implications of those deficits?

Ed Balls rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) is not giving way.

Mr. Lansley: Important as it is to understand the finances of the NHS, it is more important to understand the consequences of the deficits. In September, the British Medical Association conducted a survey, which found that three quarters of trusts faced a funding shortfall; one in three trusts were planning to reduce services and almost half were freezing recruitment, including the recruitment of medical staff. A quarter of the trusts were considering redundancies, including medical staff—for example, clinical psychiatric staff in Oxfordshire.

The BMA said:

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): My hon. Friend may be interested to know that patients are already paying a price in East Sussex. In the East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which is almost £5 million in deficit, not only two weeks ago did Conquest hospital start closing wards ahead of the winter, but it has now told all new out-patients that no one will be seen this side of Christmas and that patients must travel up to 30 miles. That is a damning indictment of not just the
15 Nov 2005 : Column 838
current financial crisis but a health funding formula that diverts funds from constituencies such as mine in the south-east to Labour's friends in the north.

Mr. Lansley: Yes, I understand exactly the point that my hon. Friend makes. South Cambridgeshire primary care trust, which covers most of my constituency, gets £888 per head this year, while the PCT in the Secretary of State's constituency gets £1,131.

The Royal College of Nursing published a survey this month that showed that up to 3,000 staff in England would lose their jobs, including at least 1,000 nurses.

Mr. Ian Austin (Dudley, North) (Lab): Given the hon. Gentleman's complete failure to answer the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Ed Balls), may I ask him again whether he supported the patient's passport and the Conservative pledge to remove £2 billion from the NHS at the election? [Interruption.] I recall Conservative Members voting against the national insurance increase that has delivered billions of pounds for the health service. Will he tell me what the effect of blocking that increase would have been on NHS finance?

Mr. Lansley: Those who observe or read the report of the debate will reflect on the fact that Labour Members are not prepared to stand up and defend their Government's policies.

We are in the business of examining what is going on in this financial year and what are the realities across the NHS. One of the realities of those deficits is the closure of NHS beds. Let me remind the Government. The Secretary of State will recall, no doubt, that the NHS plan said five years ago that there would be 7,000 extra NHS beds by 2004. In fact, between 2000 and 2004, the number of NHS beds fell by 4,518.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that, during the Labour Government's term in office, 111 beds have been cut from Southend and Basildon hospitals, which serve my constituency, and that the Minister responsible refuses to give me an undertaking to rule out further cuts in hospital beds there?

Next Section IndexHome Page