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Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk) (Con): May I express my admiration for the restraint with which my hon. Friend is delivering his speech? Does he agree that spending is at the heart of this matter? In Suffolk West, the per capita spend is £223 less than in the rest of the country. The fact that the changes in the funding formulae that have taken place under this Government
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are skewed against an area such as Suffolk West was confirmed this afternoon by the strategic health authority.

Mr. Yeo: My hon. Friend is quite right about that. We have a severe underfunding problem in Suffolk West.

It is not the Walnuttree hospital that has caused this crisis. It is a combination of unfair treatment by the Department and short-sighted incompetence by the trust. I urge the Minister to say three things in his reply. First, he should acknowledge that intermediate care is not suitable for every single patient. Secondly, he should instruct the trust to abort its consultation process at once. Thirdly, he should tell the trust to work with the Walnuttree hospital action committee to develop alternative proposals, based on a proven model of care, that will reflect the priorities of the Government and the   needs of the patients. If the Minister does that tonight, I will launch a fund to erect a statue to him in the town.

10.18 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Liam Byrne): I have not been in politics long, and I certainly have not had an offer like that before. Let me see what I can do this evening. I start by congratulating the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on securing this Adjournment debate. He takes a keen interest in health matters in Suffolk, and he has recently raised the matter of health services in his constituency in parliamentary questions and correspondence, to which ministerial colleagues have recently replied. Indeed, the Secretary of State and other ministerial colleagues have also been fortunate enough to meet several of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues and fellow local MPs in Suffolk and the wider strategic health authority area to discuss local health services. I should also like to put on record my thanks and praise for the work done by Kevin Craig and local councillors in ensuring that this matter has been so thoroughly aired.

Before I turn to the vital local matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised, I hope that the House will permit me to sketch a little of the background to this debate. The national health service is now in receipt of record resources. Funding of the NHS has increased from £35 billion to nearly £70 billion, and by 2007–08, that will rise again to £92 billion. That is a huge increase. If the NHS were an economy, it would be the 33rd largest in the world, a little larger than that of Portugal.

That money has gone where it matters. It has gone towards boosting the numbers of consultants, GPs and nurses, which have risen by 47 per cent., by nearly 4,500 and by 67 per cent. respectively since 1997. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman emphasised the contribution made by NHS staff in his constituency.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on securing such an important debate. I hear what the Minister is saying, but if a record amount is being invested, why are hospitals such as Walnuttree closing?

Mr. Byrne: I shall deal with the question of investment in South Suffolk shortly.
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Those new staff up and down the country have done an enormous amount of work in shortening waiting lists. The number of people receiving treatment in hospital has increased by three quarters of a million to over 5.5 million, up by 16 per cent. since 1997. The total number of people waiting is down by more than 25 per cent., and the number of people waiting for more than three months by more than 50 per cent. The result, quite simply, is the saving of lives. Cancer mortality rates in England are down by 12 per cent., and the mortality rate for circulatory disease in England has fallen by 27 per cent.

Suffolk has benefited greatly from that advance. The latest figures show that death rates from coronary heart disease in the Suffolk area have fallen by nearly 23 per cent. since 1997. That is not an accident; it has happened because there are 400 more consultants, 4,900 more nurses and 800 more doctors in the strategic health authority area. Those staff have done an enormous amount to cut waiting times, and the results are showing in the most important indicators, the mortality statistics.

Along with the extra money have come innovations such as the early intervention team that helps West Suffolk hospital to manage new demand; new community matrons; £26 million of investment in Ipswich to create a new critical care suite and planned treatment centre, scheduled to open in 2007; and the launch of a digital hearing aid service, Choose and Book, up and running in east Suffolk ahead of schedule. I could go on and on, but the debate is not about the past. It is about the future, and at the heart of the critique of the hon. Member for South Suffolk were two questions with which I wish to deal, about money and about services.

An extra £110 million or so has gone into the NHS in Suffolk since 2003. The hon. Gentleman's constituency has received an extra £49 million between 2003–04 and 2005–06. I am glad that he raised the issue of fair funding. Fair funding would not have been promoted by the patient's passport, on which he campaigned in his constituency during the election. I am glad that that policy has gone into the bin. The introduction of fair funding is important in Suffolk, because it will raise health funding to the necessary level. Between 2006–07 and 2007–08, the total amount of extra money for Suffolk is set to rise by £86 million. There are deficits in some Suffolk trusts, but it is important to note that the level of increased funding for primary care trusts in Suffolk is nearly 2.5 times that of current deficits.

The pace of change with which funds have been increased is important. The hon. Gentleman said he did not feel that his area had been treated well in the past. In the future, the rate of funding will rise by nearly 21.5 per cent. That is more than the national average, which is just 19.5 per cent.

At a time when the amount of money is rising, it is important for the local NHS to spend time on getting services right. There are no more important services than those that support older people and those with long-term conditions, not just because they have given their country and their community a lifetime's service but because they are the nation's biggest users of the NHS. Two thirds of NHS acute beds at any one time are occupied by someone over the age of 65, and we believe that about 80 per cent. of NHS costs are spent on the
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15 million people with long-term conditions. Services for older people and those with long-term conditions need to be strengthened, in Suffolk as elsewhere. The principles that underpin the current consultation in the hon. Gentleman's constituency must be in line with the policy of transforming emergency care to support the care of both older people and people with long-term conditions closer to home, which is where they want it to be. That means supporting people in their own homes with integrated health and social care teams, often co-ordinated by community matrons, in a model of care that has been successfully introduced elsewhere in   the NHS and already exists in many parts of Suffolk.   Intermediate care is needed that progresses rehabilitation much faster, enabling people to maintain their independence, so they do not become completely reliant on episodic hospital care.

Mr. Spring rose—

Mr. Byrne: I have two or three more important points to make in the last five minutes. If I get a pause, I will give way.

The key point about modernisation of services in Suffolk is that 20th century models of services, which often trapped patients in hospitals, simply do not meet the needs of patients, families and, importantly, carers, and nor do they exploit advances in assistive technology. The public have told PCTs that they need to co-ordinate services better with social care so that people do not spend unnecessary time in hospital.

Rightly, there will always be popular affection for well-established local institutions such as the Walnuttree. That is surely no crime—NHS professionals change people's lives. I will always remember the surgeon who struggled to save my mother's life and the midwives who delivered my children. Surely the 2,500 responses in east Suffolk, the 3,500 responses in West Suffolk and the 29,000 people who signed nine separate petitions across the county to show their support for the Walnuttree reflect that instinct. Such views must be balanced against the need for the NHS to modernise and provide the most appropriate care for patients.

The hon. Gentleman made an important point about statements made to the House about spending on the Walnuttree. The chief executive of the primary care trust will now write back to him explaining exactly how the £300,000, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave as information to the House, was spent.

Over the years to come, important changes will be needed to the way in which money is spent. Surely it is good that the local community in Suffolk has to consider how to spend another £86.5 million over the next two years in delivering 21st century care. The White Paper on health and social care, which will shortly be presented to the House, will have a great deal to say about how care needs to be shifted much closer to the community, how we need to shift the balance of spending from acute hospitals into preventive services, and importantly, how health and social care must work more closely together.
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