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Those were the actions of the last Government in dealing with the issues that we inherited. It was the last Government who left the national health service with the lowest ever waiting lists and the highest ever public satisfaction, and no attempt by the Conservatives to rewrite history can take away that fundamental strength in the NHS which the last Government left behind.

Mr Hunt: I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that his predecessors deserve credit for introducing an inspection regime into the NHS, but would he now agree that it was a big mistake to allow expert-led inspections—the kind of really thorough inspections that could have uncovered what happened at Mid Staffs—to be abolished in favour of generalist inspections, which meant that the same people inspected dental clinics, GP practices and big London teaching hospitals? That was a profoundly important mistake that this Government are right to correct.

Andy Burnham: It is no good coming all holier than thou and claiming a counsel of perfection from the Government and that all the problems arose under Labour. There was no independent regulation in the NHS under the previous Conservative Government. There were no data of the kind that the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman) mentioned, so that comparisons could be made. Those things were introduced by the previous Labour Government, learning the mistakes of previous failings. This has been a continuous journey in the NHS—when things go wrong, the Government of the time act to make things better. The Secretary of State would do well to remember that before he makes the kind of statements he has made today.

We welcome some of the steps that have been taken, and I want to focus on two in particular on which we have seen an important change of emphasis. First, severe cuts to front-line staffing numbers were a primary cause of what went wrong in Stafford. In the last year, there has been a temporary halt to the cuts to nursing numbers that we saw in the early years of the coalition Government. However, Monitor has warned that this is just short term, and points to further large planned job cuts of close to 7,000 nursing posts in 2014-15 and 2015-16, made worse by severe cuts to nurse training places since 2010, which have forced many trusts in England to recruit from overseas. While we welcome the change of emphasis, we will watch carefully to ensure that recent progress on staffing is not lost.

Secondly, the Secretary of State has been right to focus on the care of older people. Moves to appoint named consultants and GPs for over-75s will clearly help to improve continuity of care. Those are the first steps in the right direction, but we would argue that something much more radical is needed. I believe that the time has come for a fundamental rethink, from first principles, of the way we care for older people, and that is what our commission on whole person care, published yesterday, has begun to set out.

Today, there are quite simply too many older people in our hospitals. Many do not need to be there, but hospital is fast becoming the last resort for people who have lost support in the home—be it support by social care or by the NHS. If we continue as a country on the current path—with further severe planned cuts to social

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care throughout the rest of this decade—it is a plan for the ever-increasing hospitalisation of frail older people. It is no answer to the ageing society and indeed will make it much harder to address the issues that Robert Francis identifies in his report. Instead, we need a completely new approach, where we start in the home and build a truly personalised service around each individual, their family and their carers. We need an NHS for the whole person, able to see all of an individual’s needs. We need a service where the home not the hospital becomes the default setting for care and, as I will come on to explain, that is what our policy of full integration of health and care is designed to deliver.

To listen to the Secretary of State today, people would be forgiven for thinking that everything in the NHS right now is just fine, everything is being put right and there are no problems. I have to say to him that the complacency he showed in his speech is simply not justified and, in fact, very worrying. May I remind him that hospital A and Es in England have now missed his Government’s target for 32 weeks running? The last 12 months since the Francis Report was published have—taken together—been the worst year in A and E for at least a decade, with almost 1 million people waiting more than four hours. That shows that NHS services have got worse, not better, since the publication of the Francis report.

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend also recognise the growing problems in the mental health sector, as illustrated by evidence given to the Health Committee only earlier this week? We have seen the loss of 1,700 mental health beds over the last two years.

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend anticipates me, as I will come on to that subject. My point that the NHS has gone downhill is no better illustrated than by the crisis that is developing in mental health provision.

Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Andy Burnham: In a moment.

On all measures, this winter has been just as bad as the last, with some patients waiting hours on trolleys, or held at the door of A and E or in the back of ambulances. A and E is the barometer of the whole health and care system, and that barometer is warning of severe storms ahead.

Mr Jeremy Hunt: As it happens, waiting times for A and E departments are now half what they were when the right hon. Gentleman was Health Secretary, but may I gently suggest that rather than trying to turn this debate into a discussion about who had the better A and E performance, he should return to the Francis report, which is what the debate is about and which deals with something that happened on his watch? The country wants to know what his party, and he personally, have learned from the mistakes that were made that allowed Mid Staffs to happen.

Andy Burnham: Pressure on hospitals, and how we relieve it so that they can care for people properly, is the core of this debate. What we have seen under this Government is an ever-increasing number of frail, elderly people coming into hospital via A and E. The Secretary

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of State shakes his head, but Francis made specific recommendations on the care of older people in hospital. The point I am making is that under him the number of older people admitted to hospitals as emergency admissions has gone up significantly, and that goes to the heart of the issues raised by the Francis report.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): We have an excellent hospital in Salford—it is one of the best in the country—but we also have 1,000 people who are losing their care packages this year. We have pressure on Salford because Trafford has been downgraded and lost its A and E, and we are short of two A and E consultants—even Salford has a problem recruiting A and E consultants. Those are real concerns for people in Salford despite having one of the best hospitals in the country.

Andy Burnham: I hope that the Secretary of State was listening to my hon. Friend. The point I was making—he did not like it—was that there is plentiful evidence that the NHS has gone downhill in the 12 months since the publication of the Francis report. The chaos in A and E has increased, and pressure on mental health services has reached almost intolerable levels.

Trusts face great difficulties in recruiting sufficient A and E doctors—a central issue in the Francis report, as it addresses safe staffing numbers.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): I agree that this is a debate about the whole NHS, and the 111 service is failing people. On Saturday night, I had direct experience of that with my six-month-old grandchild. I phoned the 111 service, but nobody could tell me when I could speak to a doctor. What did I do? I went to A and E.

Andy Burnham: That is the problem. The Government’s focus is on hospitals. All the while, alternatives to A and E are being degraded and taken away. It is an undeniable fact that it has become much harder to get a GP appointment under this Government. The Patients Association warns that it may soon be the norm to have to wait for up to a week. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State says, “Nonsense.” He should get out and speak to people. The people I speak to tell me they are getting up in the morning and ringing the surgery at 8 am or 9 am, only to be told there is nothing available for weeks. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) said, they ring 111 and the advice given is to go to A and E.

The Government have created the situation that the Secretary of State will not address. He wants to put it all in his own terms, but this is the reality in the NHS right now and this is what has happened since the publication of the Francis report. He has put more pressure on hospitals, because he has made it harder for people to get a GP appointment, and hospitals today face greater difficulty in meeting their targets. Indeed, as I just said, in the 12 months since the Francis report, hospital A and Es have missed the target 32 times running. These issues go to the heart of what we are debating today.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Constituents across the country will be really concerned that the Secretary of State was shaking his head when my right hon. Friend noted the fact that hospitals are under

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pressure and that that will have an adverse impact. Macmillan Cancer Support notes that four in 10 people are leaving hospital without enough support from health and social services. That shows there is a crisis across the entirety of the NHS, not just in A and E.

Andy Burnham: That is what I am saying: A and E is the barometer of the whole system. If there is pressure anywhere, in the end it shows up in A and E. Hospitals become jammed: they cannot admit people from A and E to the ward because people in the ward cannot be discharged home. This is what we are seeing. The Secretary of State is in denial, basically. He is shaking his head and saying that this is nothing to do with the issues raised by the Francis report. I am afraid that this is the real experience of people—staff and patients—up and down the country, and the sooner he wakes up to it the better for us all. If he thinks the situation with regard to getting a GP appointment is acceptable at the moment that is up to him, but those of us on the Opposition Benches find it completely unacceptable. It is simply not good enough and the sooner he pulls his finger out and does something about it the better.

The Secretary of State’s failure even to acknowledge these issues today is a matter of some amazement, given that he could find time to talk on an area that is not his responsibility—the NHS in Wales. There are, of course, important issues that the Welsh Assembly needs to address, but voters in England might appreciate it if he spent a bit more time sorting out problems here rather than pointing the finger over there.

Mr Harper: The NHS in Wales is relevant. Thousands of constituents in England have to use the NHS in Wales—the point I made to the Secretary of State—because of the Labour party’s ill-thought-out devolution settlement. Thousands of patients in Wales cross the border to use the NHS in England, too. What lessons should this House draw from the Labour party’s performance in running the NHS in Wales, if the shadow Secretary of State is ever back in my right hon. Friend’s chair at the Department of Health?

Andy Burnham: I, as part of the previous Government, left the lowest waiting times in the history of the NHS, and A and E was performing much better at the end of the previous Government than it is now. Hospital A and Es have dropped right down, so we do not need to take lessons from the hon. Gentleman.

Let us return to the issue of England and Wales. The mantra or script of Government Members is almost to deny that there are problems in England. Last week, 16 major A and Es in England were below the Welsh average on waits in A and E. Some trusts are seriously struggling, such as in Leicester, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), and Great Western Hospitals NHS Trust and North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, where one in four patients were waiting more than four hours.

Another trust below the Welsh average was Barking, Havering and Redbridge, which includes Queen’s hospital, Romford. May I recommend to the Secretary of State that instead of sitting there mumbling away, he read an article on The Guardian website today by Saleyha Ahsan, an A and E consultant who has worked at Queen’s hospital, Romford? She writes:

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“Being a doctor in accident and emergency has at times resembled being a medic in a war zone.”

May I remind him that this is the English NHS she is talking about—the one he is supposed to be responsible for? She goes on to say that the severe shortage of A and E doctors is a result of his predecessor’s failure to listen to the warnings from the College of Emergency Medicine about the looming recruitment crisis, because it was obsessed by its reorganisation. Dr Clifford Mann said he felt like

“John the Baptist crying in the wilderness”

because the Government’s reorganisation brought “decision-making paralysis” to the NHS. What does Dr Mann say now? He says that even after the reorganisation these issues cannot be dealt with, because

“there are now a lot of semi-detached organisations to deal with”.

Government Members do not like hearing it, but the fact is that the reorganisation by the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley) damaged front-line care in the NHS. May I remind the Secretary of State that just 12% of people think standards in the NHS have got better under the coalition, while 47% think they have got worse? Rather than pointing the finger at Wales, the Government need to spend a bit more time sorting out the problems they have created in England.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) says, an urgent area that needs to be addressed is mental health. Some 1,700 mental health care beds have been cut over the past two years because these Ministers have allowed the first real-terms cut in mental health spending for a decade. As a result, alarming stories are emerging of very vulnerable children and adults being held in inappropriate accommodation, such as police cells. According to Mind, many trusts are reporting more than 100% bed occupancy. One trust in London has had to turn office space into temporary wards with camp beds.

We are also hearing of children being sent hundreds of miles to find an available bed. In a constituency case, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West found that there was simply no bed available in the public or private sector anywhere in England on a day when a very vulnerable child needed support. A recent freedom of information request by Community Care found that in 2013-14 10 trusts sent children to young people’s units more than 150 miles away. The furthest distance was 275 miles, from Sussex to Bury. A 12-year-old girl from Hull was sent 130 miles away to a unit in Stafford. Her child and adolescent mental health services team were searching for a bed for two days, and were told that the Stafford bed was the only one available in the country.

George Freeman: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I came to have a debate on the Francis report. The shadow Secretary of State is not mentioning the Francis report; he is launching a criticism of the Government’s record since the report, which has nothing to do with it.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Frankly, that is my business and I do not require any help to decide what is in order. The shadow Secretary of State is remaining in order, as the Secretary of State remained

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in order. I think it is best that we continue with the Front-Bench opening speeches to make sure that we can get in all the Back Benchers who wish to speak in this important debate.

Andy Burnham: It is interesting that Government Members do not like it, but this is the reality in the NHS right now, 12 months after the Francis report. Patient care is being compromised in the mental health care system. If the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman) does not think that that is relevant, let me quote Professor Sue Bailey, the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. She said that mental health units are

“heading for a Mid Staffs scandal”.

If that is not relevant, what is?

Mr Cash: Just to put the record straight and to give the shadow Secretary of State the opportunity to rectify something he was responsible for at the time, I accept that there was a Francis report before the inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 took place. In the light of the fact that he has himself acknowledged many of the recommendations of the Francis report, will he now accept that it was a grave mistake not to have a public inquiry under the 2005 Act on his watch that of his predecessors as Secretaries of State?

Andy Burnham: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that it was I who appointed Robert Francis to begin the process of an independent inquiry into what went wrong. I shall say more in a moment about what I did, why I did it, and why I stand by what I did, because in my view what I did was help to get to the truth while also helping Stafford hospital to recover.

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, my wife is a community psychiatric nurse who sees mental health services at the sharp end. Does he agree that the coalition seems to view mental health as a Cinderella service rather than an integral part of the NHS?

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend is right: it is the poor relation that has always been on the fringes of the system, and is always the first service to be targeted for cuts. That has happened again in these difficult times. The Government are cutting mental health services more deeply than the rest of the NHS, and that has led to all the problems that I have been describing.

I went to Stafford recently to meet campaigners who are working to support the hospital. One of them told me that because of the lack of available mental health beds, beds had had to be found in the hospital for people who were experiencing serious mental health crises. That is what begins to happen when we do not have adequate capacity on the ground. Government Members say that this is not relevant, but it is directly relevant to all the matters that we are discussing today.

Andrew George: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I was critical of the last Labour Government for rather bizarrely rolling out the red carpet for the private sector and, indeed, allowing financial targets to distort clinical priorities to an extent which, I think, created the circumstances that led to the Mid Staffs difficulties. He has mentioned integration of care. Does the Labour party propose full integration in terms of the pooling of

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budgets, and does he support the campaign for a fundamental safety standard in respect of the ratio of registered nurses to patients on acute hospital wards?

Andy Burnham: I do support that campaign, because I think that we need transparency so that local people can see whether their hospitals have enough staff. I also support the full integration of health and social care into a single service—an even deeper integration than a pooled budget—because I believe that that is the only way in which we will build a service based on the individual. We need a system in which all the needs of one person are clear and the service can start in the home, rather than this fragmented world in which care in the home is being cut and older people are being left at ever greater risk of hospitalisation.

I find it worrying that Government Members seem to be in denial about what I have been saying, and that brings me to the central point that I want to make. I believe that the Government have mishandled their response to the Francis report, and I shall cite three examples in support of my claim. First and most obviously, the Government have failed fully to implement 88 of the report’s recommendations, as they have themselves acknowledged. Secondly, Stafford hospital has, in my view, been hung out to dry. Thirdly, by overtly politicising the whole issue of care failure, the Government have created a climate of fear throughout the NHS—the worst possible response to what Francis said.

It seems to me that the Government have missed the entire point of the Francis report. If we distil the report into a few words, it called for a culture change. A range of measures were proposed with the aim of achieving that change, including a duty of candour for individuals and organisations, regulation of health care assistants, and, crucially, moves to strengthen the patient voice at local level by giving Healthwatch more protection and prominence. Francis recommended that local authorities be required to pass centrally provided funds to local Healthwatch groups, but that recommendation was not accepted. Of the £43 million allocated by the Department last year, HealthWatch groups have received only £33 million, which leaves £10 million unaccounted for. The Patients Association has said that

“vital recommendations have not been accepted and…patient care could suffer as a result.”

We support measures that the Government are introducing in the Care Bill on the appointment of chief inspectors, but let us be clear: they were not recommendations of the Francis report, and, if we are not careful, they will risk reinforcing a much more top-down approach to regulation. The position is not helped, I might add, by the Secretary of State’s new habit of calling hospital chief executives directly himself. Indeed, one of the great ironies of the Government’s reorganisation is that it has left the NHS a more top-down organisation than it was before, with clinical commissioning groups yet to find their voice and NHS England calling all the shots.

Let me quote from the Nuffield Trust’s report, entitled “The Francis Report: one year on”. In his foreword to the report, Francis himself says:

“Perhaps of most concern are the reports suggesting a persistence of somewhat oppressive reactions to reports of problems in meeting financial and other corporate requirements. It is vital

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that national bodies exemplify in their own practice the change of cultural values which all seem to agree is needed in the health service.”

Robert Francis himself says that national bodies are still behaving in a top-down fashion—one year on.

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): What with NHS England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, the Care Quality Commission, Monitor, clinical commissioning groups and the Department of Health, is the NHS not in danger of having no clear lines of responsibility? There appears to be no clarity when it comes to who is enforcing good quality of care across the NHS. Is not the use of human resources practice to bully staff one example of something that may fall through the gaps between those various organisations?

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend has raised an important point. People are confused about the new NHS, and confused about who has responsibility for what. The Government have created more organisations, not fewer; the NHS is more top-down than it was before; and that is not changing the culture. Robert Francis himself has said that the culture is not changing. The Government are utterly complacent if they think that they have got everything sorted out.

George Freeman: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Andy Burnham: Time is against us, I am afraid.

The Secretary of State is wrong if he thinks that top-down regulation is the only answer. It cannot prevent things from going wrong in the first place. The Secretary of State should accept all the recommendations of the Francis report, including the recommendations that are designed to change the culture at a local level.

Let me now turn to the future of Stafford hospital, and address the point made by the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash). If there was one thing that the people of Stafford deserved after what had been a long and painful process, it was the legitimate expectation that, at the end of that process, they would see a fully functioning local hospital that was both safe and sustainable. That is why I believe that the conclusion of the trust special administrator process is both wrong and unfair on them. It will result in a significant downgrade of the hospital, and there is still no clarity in regard to important services such as maternity.

The issue of the future of Stafford hospital goes to the heart of the handling of the inquiry and the decisions made about it. When I arrived at the Department of Health in June 2009, the official advice that I received was that I should not hold any further inquiry into what had gone wrong, because it would distract the hospital from the essential task of making immediate improvements. I could not accept that advice, because I believed that we needed to get to the full truth of what had gone wrong. That is why I appointed Robert Francis to conduct an independent inquiry. However, I stopped short of a full public inquiry because I had been warned that such an inquiry could destabilise the hospital and prevent it from making improvements. The Secretary of State nods.

That is the advice that I was given, but I told Robert Francis that he could come back to me and ask for powers to compel witnesses to appear before him if he

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felt that that was necessary. He came back to me to say that he felt that he had had all the co-operation that he needed. Indeed, he had had more, because of the nature of the inquiry that I had set up.

As the Secretary of State will recall, after the first Francis report I commissioned a second-stage inquiry into regulatory systems. I did not disagree with the coalition’s decision to upgrade it to a full public inquiry, as that was always a finely balanced judgment, but I did warn at the time that the hospital would need further support, given what a full public inquiry would entail. I do not believe that it has been given that support. Worse, the administration process that it has undergone has been brutal. I do not believe that there is a district general hospital in the land that could survive a three-year public inquiry followed by financial administration. The Labour party’s view—informed by the Lewisham and Stafford examples—is that the Government are misusing the administration powers created by the last Government to drive through reconfiguration on cost rather than clinical grounds, and we will therefore move to delete those powers from the Care Bill next week.

Dr Phillip Lee (Bracknell) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the sustainability of district hospitals. In the light of the Francis report and the dreadful care failings at Mid Staffs, I would suggest—and I am sure that others would agree with me—that part of the problem was that we were trying to offer care over two sites to a relatively small population. The right hon. Gentleman agrees with me that reconfiguration of acute care in particular is on the horizon. Does he also agree that, in view of the political difficulties of acute reconfiguration and the ultimate closures of departments, a cross-party approach is long overdue?

Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important call, and I think he is right: hospitals are going to have to change, and the sooner we all wake up to that fact, the better. I would also say to him, though, that hospitals cannot be changed top-down, as I believe his Government are trying to do with clause 119 of the Care Bill: a power to drive through financially driven reconfiguration and create a twin-track route outside of the normal, established process. The normal process creates local oversight and scrutiny at democratic level, and independent judgment on changes from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. That is the established route and it should not be bypassed. I say that while agreeing with the hon. Gentleman that we do need a cross-party approach.

I believe we owe it to the people of Stafford to support their hospital and maintain as many services there as possible. If the Secretary of State were to visit Stafford and sit down with people on the Support Stafford Hospital group, as I have done, he would hear a real sense of injustice from them that their hospital has been dragged down by a barrage of negative publicity. Will the Secretary of State confirm today whether Stafford hospital will continue to have a maternity service? Rumours and nods and winks are no good; people need to know. What will he do to ensure that the people of Stafford do not have to travel miles to get basic services? I can tell the House that I will continue to

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argue for the fullest range of safe services at Stafford, as that has been my consistent aim throughout this entire process.

Perhaps the most unseemly aspect of the last year has been an attempt by some to politicise the failing at Stafford. That has created a climate of fear in the NHS that may make it even less likely that doctors and nurses feel able to report mistakes or poor care and achieve the culture change that the Francis report advocated. I would like to remind those on the Government Benches that this stands in stark contrast to the way the previous Government handled the care failures they inherited from the Government before them at Bristol and Alder Hey, and also the Shipman murders. At Bristol, doctors raised concerns but were not listened to. Parents whose children had died or suffered brain damage were ignored. For a long time nothing was done. It was in 1997 that the General Medical Council finally started to investigate what had gone wrong at Bristol. I say to those on the Government Benches, for goodness’ sake please remember and take the long view on these issues. Let us all use these moments by making them a catalyst for change in the NHS.

NHS staff report to me that they now feel a climate of fear and an intensification of the blame culture, with the talk of uncaring nurses, lazy GPs and coasting hospitals. We have seen HSMR—hospital standardised mortality ratio—figures misused by Government spin doctors to generate misleading headlines that have damaged struggling hospitals. It even got to the point where a group of senior clinicians and managers felt compelled to write to The Guardian at the end of last year, calling on the Government to call off the attack dogs. They feel that there is an attempt to magnify the failings of the NHS and run it down, and that it is linked to a drive towards more privatisation.

What the NHS needs to address some of the major issues that the Francis report raised is the ability to collaborate and integrate. The great sadness is that the Health and Social Care Act has placed it on the opposite path, towards competition and fragmentation. We now have the unbelievable spectacle of the Competition Commission intervening for the first time to prevent sensible collaboration between hospitals. The logical consequence of “any qualified provider” is more and more providers dealing with one person’s care. This is a recipe for cost, complexity and fragmentation.

I am clear that the market is not the answer to 21st century care. Instead, we need services based around the individual, starting in the home, with all barriers to integration are removed. That is essential if we are to rethink the care of older people as the Francis report invites us to do, and this shows the big difference between those on this side of the House and those on the Government Benches. They talk about integration but have instead legislated for fragmentation. Only by repealing the Health and Social Care Act will we put that right, put the right values back at the heart of the NHS and build an NHS ready for the 21st century.

2.14 pm

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I was told by a senior member of the medical profession that the two Francis inquiries were the most important look at the NHS for

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at least two decades. He was right. The first, which was commissioned by the previous Government, revealed what Robert Francis describes as the

“appalling suffering of many patients”

primarily caused by a serious failure on behalf of the trust board, which did not listen sufficiently to patients or staff and failed to tackle an insidious negative culture involving a tolerance of poor standards. The second report, from the public inquiry commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley), described how

“a system which ought to have picked up and dealt with a deficiency of this scale failed in its primary duty to protect patients and maintain confidence in the healthcare system.”

It is a tribute to those who fought long and hard against the odds to have the inquiries and reports instituted by the last two Governments that their importance is recognised.

George Freeman: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most shameful episodes highlighted by the Francis report is the consistent and persistent neglect of the whistleblowers in the service who tried to raise the issues that were being hidden, and the systemic neglect of their interests? Many of them are still suffering, and this is still going on in Wales today. Will he invite the shadow Secretary of State to acknowledge that the problem is ongoing?

Jeremy Lefroy: I agree. The treatment of whistleblowers has been a disgrace, not just at Mid Staffs but in many other places. I have seen consultant contracts from way back that have prevented their raising issues even with their Members of Parliament, and I am glad to say that sort of thing is coming to an end. I want to try to focus as much as possible on the Francis report, however, as I believe there are many important lessons that all of us, including me, have to learn.

As the Health Committee has said, as a consequence of the issues I have outlined,

“a healthcare system established for public benefit and funded from public funds risks the undermining of its guarantees of safety and quality.”

It is my sincere hope that we never have the need for another inquiry of this nature. This should mark a watershed in the NHS—a time when patient safety and high-quality compassionate care is the rule, delivered through a positive and caring culture, underpinned by safety and quality management systems through our health service and backed by openness and accountability, which I am sure many Members will speak about later. It is thus that we can respect the memory of those who suffered at Stafford, but also in many other places across the UK, as the work of the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) has shown.

The Francis reports, and particularly the accounts of patients’ experiences, should be required reading for all medical and nursing students. I ask the Secretary of State to confirm that he will pursue that with Health Education England.

Robert Francis, for whom I have the greatest respect for the calm and understanding way in which he conducted the inquiry, made 290 recommendations, but I shall concentrate on his essential aims. He writes of fostering a common culture of putting the patient first. It is sad

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that he must write that, but it is necessary. However, before we rush to find fault with a service which has lost its way, let us just consider the society in which it operates, starting with ourselves. Can we honestly say that we always put our constituents’ interests first? What about others in the professional and business worlds? When self-interest and personal fulfilment are so often lauded, why is it that we expect the NHS to be so very different? Saying that is neither to excuse nor to lower the bar, but to understand how difficult it is in some circumstances to maintain that highest of standards. Ensuring that patients come first when dealing with several very ill and distressed folk, perhaps at 2 o’clock in the morning, takes more than just compassion. I am not downplaying compassion in any way—it is essential—but the underpinning of quality and safety systems carried through as second nature is also required. It means ensuring that the leadership is on call to provide extra help as soon as it is needed. It demands the strength to speak out for what is not acceptable and an openness to admit when there are problems. Without the systems and standards, the supportive leadership, the strength and the openness, not even an angel can always put patients first, much as they would wish to.

There has been much debate about staffing levels, and rightly so. Although the problems at Stafford went far beyond numbers, there is no doubt that cuts contributed to them. When I was first selected as parliamentary candidate in 2006, the trust had a £10 million deficit. It wanted to achieve foundation trust status and needed to balance its books, and part of its solution was to reduce the number of nurses. I should have questioned that, as should others, but we accepted the trust’s assurances that it would not harm patient care. I say to all right hon. and hon. Members that one thing that must come out of this report is that each of us must be emboldened to challenge our local trusts when they make statements such as, “This won’t harm patient care”, despite their cutting 100 or more nurses. The approach to staffing management and data publication used at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust has been held up as an example of good practice in staffing by the Health Committee and the Secretary of State, so let us act and adopt it everywhere.

I recall that when I was first elected to this House, I was shocked at the tone and content of some of the responses by the NHS to complaints. Not only did they take several months to arrive, but they were sometimes complacent, and they certainly lacked compassion and understanding. That has, for the most part, changed considerably for the better—it certainly has in Stafford. The overwhelming message I receive from my constituents who need to complain is that they are not interested in compensation, but they are interested in a better NHS for everybody. So let us approach the complaints system from their premise, not that of lawyers. That is the responsibility of the chief executive, who should review all complaints, and personally read and sign all response letters. The Secretary of State responds to several complaints each week personally and in this, as in many other ways, he sets the example.

Although I am encouraged by the progress made in treating complaints, I am less confident about accountability.

Mr Cash: Does my hon. Friend accept that it is clearly stated in the prime ministerial guidelines of 2005 that when somebody writes to a Minister who has

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responsibility, including the Secretary of State, the relevant Member of Parliament is entitled to receive a personal letter that comprehensively and efficiently deals with the question at issue? Does my hon. Friend also agree that, regrettably, that did not happen in all instances when matters were raised with regard to Stafford hospital?

Jeremy Lefroy: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and for all the work he has done on this issue. It is salutary for all of us to remember that when we get such a letter it often represents probably another 10 people who did not write to complain because they do not want to affect the NHS. We should treat each letter of complaint as being of immense importance.

I said that I am less confident about accountability, so let me say why. This is not just a question of the resignation of executives within a trust or the NHS when things go badly wrong, although it remains astonishing to me that no one has had the courage to do this given that the failings in Stafford were so clearly systemic; it also concerns the approach of the professional bodies representing nursing and clinical staff. The Francis inquiry saw evidence of poor co-operation with the General Medical Council from other organisations, including royal colleges, even though serious matters of fitness to practise and patient safety were involved; they almost put the practitioners above the patients. Those representing the medical and nursing professions are accountable to the public first and foremost. The best way of maintaining public confidence in their professions is to ensure that they treat their members who are not fit to practise in a firm, fair and swift way; cases of doctors or others being suspended for months or even years are too frequent.

Before I discuss Stafford specifically, may I just make a few remarks about hospital standardised mortality ratios? The Francis report states that Professor Jarman

“made it clear that it is not possible to calculate the exact number of deaths that would have been avoidable, nor to identify avoidable incidents…The statistics can only be signposts to areas for further inquiry.”

I urge all those who handle HSMRs to do so with care. They are extremely important as guidelines, and it was absolutely right that they were the first statistics that showed up the need for the Healthcare Commission inquiry, but to extrapolate numbers from them can be difficult and the evidence does not necessarily bear it. We have seen examples of that happen.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for mentioning that point. Does he agree that an important task of public education needs to accompany the transparency around such statistics, because they are complicated and, as he says, they are a signal but not a whole story in and of themselves? Has he any suggestions as to how we could enlarge that public education and understanding.

Jeremy Lefroy: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, but that task is probably beyond my competence. I agree that we should use HSMRs and respond to their signals, but we should not say that they are the final judgment on specific numbers. Any HSMR that looks

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difficult and looks as though it needs to be investigated must be investigated—it is much better to do so than not to do so.

I will now discuss my own constituency, which, along with those of my hon. Friends the Members for Cannock Chase (Mr Burley), for Stone (Mr Cash) and for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), has probably been the most affected. The spotlight has been on Stafford hospital for several years now, and it has been an extremely difficult time for those who raised their concerns, such as Julie Bailey and Cure the NHS, which were dismissed in a very offhand way by the NHS system and for which they endured abuse; it has also been extraordinarily testing for the many people working at that hospital and the one in Cannock, who have tried to carry out exemplary care at a time when the spotlight has been on them. They have, by and large, brought excellent care to patients, despite what has been going on around them. Understandably and rightly, the Care Quality Commission carried out an unannounced visit on the very day last week when it was announced that the Mid Staffs trust would be dissolved, so hon. Members can understand the sort of pressures that staff have faced. The great improvement that has been made has been recognised by the CQC and, most importantly, by patients and their loved ones. There is no complacency; there are still instances that should not happen, and the hospital and the trust are determined to ensure that they learn from all those. For Stafford and Cannock, however, it has also been a time of coming together and putting aside differences, as tens of thousands of people have worked together to save our hospitals and their services.

I will not dwell at length now on the process, the administration and the dissolution of the trust announced last week, but I will seek a debate on it, because some of the points made by the Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), are fair in respect of the way the process works—or does not work. I have been critical of it and will continue to be so. I will, however, dwell on the unity. I have marched twice, not only with people who have had wonderful care at Stafford, but with some who have told me that they, too, experienced very poor care at Stafford but wish, for the sake of everyone, to see both patient safety and care improved, and services protected. Last week, the trust’s dissolution was announced, and although most services will continue, I continue to oppose decisions that mean the potential loss of consultant-led maternity services, consultant-led paediatrics and in-patient paediatrics. I will continue to fight for those services, because I believe they are essential in a hospital and a place that is at least 30 km away from the nearest other possibilities for patients. I urge NHS England, in particular, to take the consultant-led maternity review very seriously indeed.

Robert Flello: I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash) for the work they have done. On those maternity and other services at Mid Staffs, may I say that the hon. Gentleman has support in Stoke-on-Trent South?

Jeremy Lefroy: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, to all the Stoke-on-Trent MPs and to the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) for the way in which they have approached this matter together

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with us. We will be working with them under the new trust arrangement, with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, and it is very important that we work together.

I refer to unity because the only way in which we will develop a health service fit for the 21st century is by showing that same unity of purpose nationally. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee), who is no longer in his place, for his remark about working together, and I absolutely agree with it. When the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and later the Secretary of State and his shadow, have made their responses to the Francis report in the past year, they have been of the highest quality; they have shown a true appreciation of the gravity of the subject and the importance of a mature response.

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): On the proposed reorganisation of services in Staffordshire, what is the role of the clinical commissioners? I thought that if we moved to a commission-based NHS, commissioners would determine what services were provided at which hospitals.

Jeremy Lefroy: My right hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. Indeed, the clinical commissioning groups have backed the changes, but the local population has not. The clinical commissioning groups are in a difficult position, because they have a budget, and the budget in Staffordshire, as in many other rural areas, is much lower than the national average for England. They are told that if they want to commission services that cost more than the tariff—as maternity services almost always do because maternity tariffs are simply not high enough—they will have to pay the extra. To some extent, the clinical commissioning groups are caught between a rock and a hard place. They may wish to commission those services, but in doing so they will have to stop commissioning others.

It is in the spirit of unity that I ask both the Secretary of State for Health and his shadow to visit Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals to speak to patients and staff and to hear first hand what they have gone through. I also urge that same co-operation in approaching the long-term challenges facing our health service. The increasing specialisation of services—62 specialties as against 30 in Norway—is driving up costs and resulting in clinicians knowing more and more about less and less.

In Stafford, we have been told that we cannot continue with our consultant-led paediatric service, because we have too few consultants—five or six as opposed to the eight to 10 that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health says are needed to maintain a rota. By that standard, some 50 or more other consultant-led departments in England should close. Instead of a proper national review with full political co-operation, however, we see the gradual picking off of departments in trusts that have financial difficulties. The same is true with maternity services.

I echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell and urge the Government and Opposition to come together with the royal colleges and resolve this matter and much else. The British public are not stupid. They understand that they cannot have every service just around the corner. However, they do not understand why a consultant-led maternity department or paediatrics

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department in one place must close on safety grounds because it does not have a large enough rota, whereas another with a smaller rota remains open. They also understand the need for more services in the community, but the idea of “slashing” hospital budgets, as Sir David Nicholson is reported in

The Guardian

as saying, is both incomprehensible and deeply worrying to those whose A and E departments are heaving, whose wards are full and whose children face travelling long distances even to receive general treatment.

Andrew Griffiths (Burton) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for giving way, and I commend him for his work on this issue. He will know that Queen’s hospital in Burton has dealt with some of the overflow from Stafford hospital following the closure of facilities and services there. Does he share my concern that the special administrators have not met any of the management at Queen’s hospital, and have ignored its letter of concern, stating that closure of the emergency department will mean that it will require an additional 18 to 34 beds? The hospital has heard nothing in response to that letter.

Jeremy Lefroy: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which is one of the things that needs to be discussed. I am talking about special administrators liaising with other trusts such as the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, the Burton Hospitals NHS Trust, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust. We are part of an integrated health economy; what affects one affects many others in the region.

Many in the profession have put it to me that we are at risk of gradually losing the skills of general medicine and surgery. That is not to downplay specialisms, because they are vital. However, unless we maintain our district general hospitals, with their ability to deal with the majority of non-specialist cases, we will end up with our specialist hospitals being overwhelmed and without doctors with vital general skills.

It would be disingenuous of me to make such points without raising the matter of NHS funding. The Government are right to have maintained NHS funding in real terms during extremely testing times. They are also right to insist that waste is rooted out. Payments of thousands of pounds to locums for a shift are not uncommon. I could cite many other examples, but there is no time. There is little doubt in my mind that we need to allocate a little more of our GDP to health than we do currently, as we are below the level in France and Germany. However, that is a question for lengthy debate on another day.

As I have said in the House before, we need to take the NHS budget out of general Government spending and convert national insurance into a national health insurance, which will still be progressive and still based on payment according to income, so that we can maintain a first-class health service alongside a competitive tax system.

The Francis report is already having an important and positive effect on the national health service and will do so for years to come. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary and his team for all they have done on that and the seriousness with which they have taken the matter. The emphasis on the safety

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of patients and quality of care seems obvious to us now, but sadly it was not always a priority. The report not only provides answers and makes recommendations, but asks fundamental questions about the future of our NHS. I have tried to outline some of those questions today. I urge all parties to come together to tackle them for the good of our nation.

2.36 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) on his eloquent presentation. The Francis report carries lessons for everyone involved in health care—whether it be hospitals and their boards, regulators, professionals or Governments. However, those lessons need to be learned all over Britain. It is a matter not just for England, but for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The letters keep coming. When I gave evidence to the Health Committee the other week, I was asked what had changed. I said that I did not know and could not honestly answer the question. Perhaps I will know when the letters stop coming. Every time I open my mouth, I am punished by yet more letters. I have had hundreds of letters from Wales; and hundreds too from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. When I was carrying out my review, I received 3,000-plus letters and e-mails, and they still keep coming.

My concern today is for my constituents in the Cynon Valley and those elsewhere in Wales where health is a devolved function. I will not be popular for saying this, but when this House is asked to give yet more powers to Wales, I will ask many questions, because the main things for which the Welsh Assembly is responsible are health and education. I was a keen pro-devolutionist in two campaigns, but in future I will think very carefully before giving any more powers to the devolved Administrations.

Many people were to blame for what happened at Mid Staffs, just as there were many people to blame for the worrying situation that was revealed at several other English hospitals in subsequent investigations by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh. There is nothing to be gained by politicising such catastrophic situations and everything to be gained from being honest about the problem and seeking appropriate solutions. After all, we are talking here about sick and vulnerable people who are often afraid and in pain. Political bun fights here or in the Welsh Assembly are of little interest to them; they just want something to change for the better.

What was so shocking in Mid Staffs of course was that no one spoke out and the warning signs of a trust in meltdown were ignored. Robert Francis has listed some of those warning signs and they read directly across to many of my concerns about the NHS in Wales.

The first warning sign is an accumulation of patient stories that detail adverse incidents, bad practice or neglect. As I have said, I have had literally thousands of those, and they continue to arrive in my office every day from all over Wales and from England.

The second warning sign, said Francis, is the level of mortality statistics. In fact, they appear to be dangerously high in many hospitals in Wales. Confusion remains on how accurate the data are. The system by which they are

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collected is questionable, to say the least, and there is a backlog in the coding of cases for inclusion in the risk-adjusted mortality index—RAMI—so we are now seeing retrospective alterations in the figures in at least one hospital, thus making it difficult to compare hospitals in Wales, or to compare England and Wales.

Alun Cairns: I pay tribute to the right hon. Lady for her work in championing patients and in drawing attention to some very unpleasant outcomes in many hospitals across the whole United Kingdom. In relation to the higher mortality rates that she refers to, does she share my concern about the political rebuttal to an e-mail from one clinician in England to another clinician in Wales simply asking for further investigations?

Ann Clwyd: I am grateful to Professor Sir Bruce Keogh for offering to assist. Given his vast experience, the people whom he offered to assist would be sensible to take the offer very seriously indeed.

The Transparency and Mortality Taskforce, which was set up by the Welsh Assembly a year ago, has today announced recommendations on a measure of mortality for Wales. Although I welcome its finally releasing the recommendations, I will await details on their implementation, which is unlikely to start until the autumn of this year. On mortality statistics, the taskforce provides an interesting academic discussion of the pros and cons of using mortality statistics as a measure of service quality and a means to compare hospitals and countries. Of course, none of that is new, but neither approach is impossible.

After almost a year, it is disappointing that a taskforce of 31 members has failed to arrive at the benchmarks on mortality that are urgently needed, so that fair international comparisons can be made between Wales, England and other countries. That was the taskforce’s job. The promise of a further statement in September 2014 appears to put the resolution of this matter even further away; one can only speculate on the reasons for that. Some good intentions may be expressed, but that is not enough, given the high level of public concern.

We continue to have only the published RAMI figures to go on. Six Welsh hospitals have RAMI figures of between 105 and 115, with 100 showing cause for concern, as we all know by now. A figure of more than 100 was described as a smoke signal. If the figure is way over 100, there is a big fire. It is not surprising that people are worried about what is actually going on. This is horribly similar to the murkiness that surrounded the mortality statistics for Mid Staffs.

We now know for certain, however, the position as reported by the Royal College of Surgeons after visiting the University hospital of Wales at Cardiff in April 2013 to investigate poor standards of care. It describes certain parts of the hospital as dangerous. It was worried about people dying on hospital waiting lists while waiting for heart surgery. Even those who got their surgery had deteriorated on the waiting lists. When they got their surgery, they were much more ill than they would have been.

Last week, the Royal College of Surgeons wrote to Healthcare Inspectorate Wales to ask what action has been taken about concerns raised last July in a report about patients dying while waiting for heart surgery. Following its initial report, the Royal College of Surgeons

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wrote to Healthcare Inspectorate Wales in August to claim that 152 patients had died in the past five years while waiting for heart surgery at the University hospital of Wales and Swansea’s Morriston hospital. I put on record my alarm about the lengthy delay in the promised revisit of the Royal College of Surgeons to those hospitals. It was promised in September, but it still has not taken place.

Other warnings to be heeded, said Francis, should come from complaints made by patients. Well, what do we know about this in Wales? Complaints trebled last year, according to the Welsh ombudsman, but the system for dealing with complaints, let alone learning from them, is highly unsatisfactory, so much so that an inquiry is under way after several high-profile cases. Obviously, we look forward to seeing the outcome of that, mindful that the retiring Welsh ombudsman said in November last year that accountability in NHS Wales has “broken down” and that there is a “lack of challenge” in the system. He asked:

“Where is the voice of the patient in the NHS in Wales?”

The fourth warning sign that Francis mentioned was signals from staff and whistleblowers. Many of them have reached me, too. Some people have told me that they are no longer able to do their jobs properly. I have had several phone calls from consultants who will not even give their names and who say that, if they gave their names, they would be sacked from their jobs.

More people are speaking out openly, and this week a letter appeared in the Western Mail from a consultant paediatrician, who said:

“The intervention of Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical Director of NHS England, expressing concern regarding high mortality rates in several Welsh Hospitals may not be welcome… It deserves to be taken seriously.

Mortality rates are ‘risk adjusted’, which means that the mortality rate is ‘adjusted’ for hospitals that deal with a disproportionate number of seriously ill patients, some of whom, sadly, but inevitably may not survive their treatment. It’s therefore appropriate to review clinical practice in all hospitals whose mortality rates are above 100. The recent publicity relating to high death rates at the University of Wales following liver surgery, where an independent Royal College of Surgeons’ report identified 10 deaths that were deemed ‘avoidable’ highlights the sluggish response of the hospital’s own management to information that should have been spotted far earlier.

A ‘Wales-wide’ investigation...or indeed a ‘health board-wide’ investigation would be too general, and would probably fail to identify clinical practice where there is a need for improvement.

Any review needs to be ‘department-wide’. All health boards have sufficient information available to them that allows identification of individual departments, possibly individual practitioners, where clinical outcome falls below the norm”—

the outliers.

George Freeman: The right hon. Lady is a doughty campaigner and commands the respect of the whole House for her work in bravely highlighting the issue. Does she agree from her experience and the correspondence that she has received that there is a lesson about the need for a different culture in the NHS of respecting the views of patients and whistleblowers, not treating them with contempt as though expressing such views is disloyal? Does she also agree that this saga highlights the importance of integrating data and having a statutory requirement to use the data to highlight the best and worst practices in the interests of patients?

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Ann Clwyd: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. In the report that I wrote with Tricia Hart on complaints, we made several suggestions and recommendations, which the Government have accepted. I hope that we have a debate similar to today’s on progress in that area in a few months’ time. Professor Sir Mike Richards has promised to campaign on the issue when he goes round the many hospitals that he visits, but it is not possible to say whether complaints will head his list and whether the way in which they are dealt with will be picked up.

The letter that appeared in the Western Mail went on to say:

“A review should look not only at mortality rates. Complication rates, a high number of complaints from patients and their families, or frequent falling out between consultants within the department, all offer useful markers for identifying potential problem areas.

Careful analysis of departmental practice could lead to a prompt and effective change in practice. The Welsh public should be in receipt of all clinical outcome measurements, department by department.

Hysterical responses, such as BMA Cymru’s description of the perceived criticism as ‘wicked slander’…are unhelpful. Our health boards’ first duty of care is to their patients. Our political leaders and BMA Cymru (my own union by the way) should also be reminded that their first duty of care is to the patients and not to our established and very powerful institutions.

I hope that we have no ‘Mid Staffordshire’ in Wales. Our leaders’ current reaction is worryingly similar to the reaction of NHS management in the North of England, where a refusal to listen to constructive concern delayed essential change for many years, with tragic consequences for many families.”

The letter is signed by Dr Dewi Evans, former consultant paediatrician, Swansea Hospitals, who sent it to the Western Mail before he sent it to me.

Warning lights should flash when the governance of a hospital fails to function or to question quality and performance, and boards are in denial about poor standards, possibly because of political pressures. We have already had examples of this in Wales at Betsi Cadwaladr, and the Welsh Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee has called for a strengthening of performance and accountability procedures across all NHS organisations in Wales. That needs to happen urgently—our boards must raise their game.

Finally, perhaps the greatest step forward in England following the Francis report was the reform of the key regulator, the Care Quality Commission, and the appointment of Professor Sir Mike Richards to the newly established post of chief inspector of hospitals. Sadly, again in Wales, the regulatory system is a shambles. The evidence to the Assembly’s inquiry on Health Inspectorate Wales was shocking. It revealed that the inspectorate was under-resourced, under-skilled, and unable to carry out the annual inspections required, or to follow up its own recommendations. It was unable to hold boards to account. It is startling that its chief executive told the inquiry in November that she was unable to guarantee that there would not be another Mid Staffs in Wales.

I am concerned, too, about the delay in the publication of the report on the inquiry, which was promised in mid-February and should provide the building blocks for the reform of the NHS in Wales. I am sure that it is inconvenient to many for me to speak out in this way about my concerns, but what we all have to learn from

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the Francis report and indeed from the brave Julie Bailey of Cure the NHS is that we must not stay quiet, however difficult that might be, when we know that there is a risk to patients.

2.54 pm

Mr Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd). I, too, pay tribute to her work in championing patients. The calm silence with which the House listened to her speech speaks volumes, as do the many nods of heads of colleagues around the Chamber.

I declare an interest, as my local hospital, Cannock Chase, is the other hospital in the Mid Staffs trust, so my constituents, like those of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), have been deeply affected by the fall-out from Mid Staffs and the Francis report. I echo some the comments that have been made: I would not wish a public inquiry or trust special administration on any Member of Parliament, as it is an horrendously long drawn-out process and incredibly stressful for everyone involved, not least the patients who use the hospitals affected and the staff who work in them. However, the outcome is worth it, as today’s debate shows it was, if we learn the right lessons,.

I praise the staff at both Stafford and Cannock Chase hospitals for getting on with the job even when they are not sure what the future will be. I urge the Minister once more to move to the new organisational structure, with Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust running Cannock Chase and University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust running Stafford, as soon as possible to end the insecurity that the staff at both hospitals have suffered for too long.

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early in his speech, to which I am listening carefully. He says that the TSA process was worth it. May I press him on that? Does he really think that that was ever going to deliver a fair outcome for his local hospital, given that it followed a three-year public inquiry and the hospital lost patients and staff as a result? In the spirit of the call made by the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), should we not all unite to recognise the exceptional circumstances that the local trust has been through? Is it not the case that a TSA process could never capture the exceptional nature of what has happened to the local health economy and, in fact, it looked narrowly at the trust’s finances and sustainability? Should we not call on the Government to look at that?

Mr Burley: The right hon. Gentleman asks a number of questions. I am still not clear about his position and whether he thinks that the public inquiry was the right decision or not. The inquiry led to recommendations and the improvements we have seen. To answer his question about whether “the TSA process was worth it”—that was the phrase he used—as we speak in the Chamber today, my local hospital is 50% empty. Cannock Chase hospital was run down by the management of Mid Staffs to near closure, and half of it lies empty. Any building that is half empty has a sword of Damocles

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hanging over it, and no one from the Opposition complained locally as services were slowly stripped out by stealth over the past 10 years. As a result of the TSA process, Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust will take over running of Cannock hospital, increase utilisation from 50% to 100%, and invest £20 million in refurbishing it. That shows that the TSA process has been fantastic from a Cannock Chase perspective, even though it has been a stressful and drawn-out process.

I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford for his tireless work on this issue and for his technical and clinical knowledge of local services, which is second to none in the House. His campaigning has led us a long way from the point at which A and E, maternity and paediatrics would all be closed, which is a hell of a legacy of public service to the people of Stafford who, I am sure, will return him at the next election for a second term—one which I hope is not dominated by the issue of Stafford hospital, as his first term has been.

As we know, the Government introduced measures in the Care Bill as their legislative response to the Francis inquiry. Those measures include the introduction of Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes, creating a single regime to deal with financial and care failures at NHS hospitals, introducing a duty of candour, and making it a criminal offence for care providers to give false and misleading information about their performance. It may surprise many that those measures do not already exist. Local parents in my constituency send their children to schools in Cannock that have an Ofsted rating, and they can speak to teachers about any documented problems in the school. Those same parents take their elderly relatives to Stafford hospital and are surprised when they receive appalling care—indeed, some even die suddenly—because there is simply no clear ranking of how that hospital is performing as there is for their children’s school.

Worse still, nursing management and staff had actively been covering up the problems. As we have seen locally, the events at Mid Staffs clearly demonstrate that a culture had been allowed to develop in the NHS in which defensiveness and secrecy were put ahead of patient care. Think about that for a moment: they were put ahead of patient care. In the 21st century, is that not a damning indictment of an institution that was set up to improve the health of its people, but has been encouraged over the years to protect itself and its reputation more than the people it exists to serve? I think that all Members should reflect on that before rushing to defend the reputation of the NHS. We should remember why the NHS exists: to serve the patients, not itself or any political party.

In the time available, I want to talk about two things: prioritising the patient experience and the TSA process. Before doing so, I think that it is worth remembering how we got to this point today. Macmillan Cancer Support’s briefing for this debate, which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) has already quoted, gets it spot on:

“The failure at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust to put patients and their priorities at the centre of their work was a key finding from Robert Francis’ report… In particular, the report found that the trust prioritised its finances and Foundation Trust application over providing a high quality of care that put patients first.”

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To quote a source that we on the Government side of the House all read regularly, the World Socialist Web Site:

“Under the 1997-2010 Labour government, Stafford was pressured to transform into a Foundation Trust—an initiative aimed at making hospitals semi-independent of the Department of Health by ‘freeing’ them to find private funding sources. In the process, £10 million was cut from the Trust’s budget and 150 jobs lost, leading to nursing staff shortages, overwork and the inability to provide a high-quality service to vulnerable patients. Any excess deaths at the hospital must be attributed to this shift.”

Mr Cash: Does my hon. Friend recall—it might be difficult for him as he was not a Member of the House at the time, but perhaps he can refer to previous documents—that when the meeting on granting trust status took place, the then head of Monitor, William Moyes, asked the trust a series of 48 questions, of which 39 were about finance? In other words, that was the priority at the time. That is where things were going badly wrong.

Mr Burley: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has a longer history in this House than I do, and indeed a longer future. He is right that finance was put far above patient care. People in Staffordshire are still astonished that the trust was ever granted FT status. I asked Robert Francis himself, and he said that he had no idea how, in the climate my hon. Friend has just described, that failing trust, which was bankrupt at the time, was able to shed staff for no clinical reason at all in order to achieve FT status, and that FT status was granted while all those problems were lurking beneath the surface. I would welcome any intervention from an Opposition Member to say why that was signed off.

The Conservatives are not alone in saying that Labour created a culture of targets in the NHS that led to thousands of unnecessary deaths at Mid Staffordshire hospital. It is also being said by the World Socialist Web Site and by independent charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support, which says that the trust prioritised its FT application over providing high-quality care that put patients first. Let us be clear what that means. The management of the Mid Staffs trust shed 150 nurses, many of them my constituents; it sacked them from their jobs, which were clearly vital, given the appalling care that followed, simply to hit financial targets. Those financial targets were not due to budget constraints—to be fair to the previous Labour Government, they did not reduce the NHS budget in Staffordshire. The job cuts were made deliberately to meet an aspirational organisational form. What a strange position to arrive at in the 21st century, where management think that it is acceptable to shed necessary nursing jobs simply to achieve an organisational form, as though that is in some way more important than serving the health needs of patients.

The Francis report is so important because it states for the first time: that the patient, not a foundation trust application, should come first; that there should be a statutory duty of candour, rather than a culture of cover-up; that feedback from patients should be valued and listened to, not ignored, as was the case in Stafford; and that hospitals should be rated, as Ofsted rates schools, and publicly assessed so that patients can make informed choices about their care.

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The figures show that NHS care has changed for the better just one year on from the Francis inquiry. The 14 hospitals now in special measures are slowly being turned around, with 650 extra nurses and nursing assistants hired, strong leaders installed and 49 board-level managers replaced. Some 2,400 extra hospital nurses have been hired. Since May 2010, 3,300 more nurses and 6,000 more clinical staff are working on NHS hospital wards overall and—this is the crucial figure—nearly 1.6 million patients have given direct feedback on what they thought about their treatment through the friends and family test.

There is clearly a shift of priorities going on within the NHS, which is to be welcomed, but it would never have happened were it not for the Francis inquiry—an inquiry, of course, that would never have happened under the previous Government. I repeat my earlier point about the importance of not protecting the reputation of the NHS as an institution, but above all else focusing on the care of the patients that it exists to serve.

3.6 pm

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): This debate, which is taking place 12 months after the publication of the Francis report, is long overdue and desperately needed.

Mr Cash: I endorse what the hon. Lady says. I think that I had to call 15 times for the report to be debated.

Joan Walley: I think that there has been an extraordinary degree of cross-party support from all Staffordshire MPs for efforts to get the matter on the agenda. When we look at the initial inquiry called by the Labour Government, its extension and then its translation into a full public inquiry by the current Government, and when we consider how quickly we as parliamentarians need to ensure that we hold the Government to account, we must recognise, as the hon. Gentleman says, that it has taken an extraordinary amount of time to get this debate.

At the heart of this debate is the need not only to discuss something that affects the whole country and Wales, as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), but to see what lessons the three inquiries have to teach us. One of the Francis report’s main recommendations is that it is also for Members of Parliament to question ourselves on how we hold our own trust boards to account. In a way, we need the ammunition to be able to do that. I know that the previous Member for Stafford genuinely tried to get answers on what was happening at the time from the then trust board, but those answers were not forthcoming.

Robert Flello: If I understand the situation correctly, the previous Member for Stafford was lied to when he tried to inquire about those issues. How on earth are Members of Parliament, with the scant resources available to us, supposed to get to the bottom of things when we are being lied to?

Joan Walley: That encapsulates the problem of Members of Parliament trying to get to the bottom of what is happening but being denied the information. I think that the main thrust of the report is a call for transparency

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and openness, for freedom of information, so that we can get informed decisions being made at local trust board level on the future direction of policy. The issue is how that is constrained by the available finances. One regret is that the finances do not come into the Francis report to the extent they might. We know that at the local level those in charge of health services are trying to ensure that they deliver a service within the financial constraints.

Mr Cash: Does the hon. Lady accept that one great problem that beset the whole Stafford tragedy was the fact that it was integrally affected by a target-based culture? That was one of the main problems, which I hope we are now getting away from.

Joan Walley: It may surprise the hon. Gentleman to know that I agree with him, and that the target culture has a lot to answer for. We have moved on from that now, and we are looking at how to achieve the best possible health care within the available resources. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) said, it is important to have integration, cross-cutting services and collaboration. We must move on from the target culture to look at the best possible way to achieve high standards of service throughout the country and stand-alone services in localities.

I want to put on the record my concern that lives were destroyed and that many people and their families were severely affected by what happened as a result of the systemic failures in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, and specifically at Stafford hospital. There are many lessons to be learned, and we owe it to them to ensure that we move on and get the right hospital services.

For the record, may I say that at the time I supported the call for a public inquiry? I say that from these Benches.

Whatever the mechanism, the heart of the matter is that we must learn the lessons and move forward. It is right to debate the broader issues, values and culture of the NHS. We must recognise that an integral part of that is the procedures to deal with a failing hospital. As we assess progress on the implementation of the Francis report, it is vital to hold the Government to account for their handling of the parallel process—the trust special administrator’s report. It is essential for those of us in Staffordshire to have clarity from the Secretary of State—I am sorry he is not in his place—on future arrangements for health care in Stafford. That is what most concerns me and I shall concentrate my comments on that.

Reference has been made to how fit for purpose the trust special administration process is. Is it just about finances, or is it about the broader health care that should be provided? Changes are being introduced in the Care Bill, which will come to the House on Monday. The Government must address how stuck we are with the TSA and the TSA reports, and whether they are broad enough to deal with breakdown and failure in individual hospitals. Obtaining a resolution on how current hospital services in Staffordshire are being taken forward is urgent. That is part and parcel of how we take forward the lessons that the Francis report identified.

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For me, the most important paragraph in the Francis report’s terms of reference is identifying

“the lessons to be drawn from that examination as to how in the future the NHS and the bodies which regulate it can ensure that failing and potentially failing hospitals or their services are identified as soon as is practicable”.

On the trust special administrators, we should aim to identify what needs to be done in advance of a hospital failing. In Staffordshire, we are stuck with a procedure. A report was carried out and sent to Monitor, and there was public consultation, which took place only in the Mid Staffordshire area. It is a great concern that when a hospital—in our case, the University Hospital of North Staffordshire—makes a proposal to rescue some of Mid Staffordshire’s services, there has been no corresponding consultation in that area about the impact of the changed configuration of health services in north Staffordshire. That is a real failing and the Government should take it on board.

Robert Flello: My hon. Friend is being generous with her time. There is an issue, which the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Mr Burley) talked about, of work going across to that hospital. The bizarre situation is that different treatments are at cost, more than cost or less than cost. It may be the case that work that ends up at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire is below-cost work, and that work that ends up at Cannock is above-cost work, so they will be a disparity in funding.

Joan Walley: My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I see nods on both sides of the House. We have a tariff system and there are extra needs in more vulnerable and deprived areas. The nonsense in accident and emergency services is that hospitals are criticised and penalised for treating too many patients when we have seen how GP appointment systems are breaking down. That goes back to the recommendation in the Francis report that NHS provision should be looked at in the round and in its entirety. The trust special administrator just looks at the detailed finances and the assumptions that underpin the finances. That is wrong, and that is what we should concentrate on.

Jeremy Lefroy: Does the hon. Lady agree that there is a serious problem with acute tariffs that have generally been cut by 4% in real terms every year, and have been for some time under this and the previous Government, compared with the tariffs for elective cases that seem to result in much more profitable work for hospitals? The more acute care a hospital provides, which is vital for the local population, the less likely it is to be financially sustainable.

Joan Walley: I agree, and in the many meetings that north Staffordshire MPs have had with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, the hon. Gentleman has made that point, as we all have frequently. We have also said that it is incumbent on us to relay that to the Government, because unless there is a shift and some recognition that the funding assumptions are flawed, no matter who is on the trust board of any new hospital, they will never be able to provide the necessary genuine health care.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): I am sorry that I could not be here at the beginning of the debate because of other commitments. Will my hon.

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Friend pay tribute to the willingness of the University Hospital of North Staffordshire to engage with all MPs across party to resolve the situation? Should we not recognise that in ensuring arrangements for financial stability, there is still a gap of some £15 million to be bridged to ensure that we can proceed on the basis of stability that is needed for the benefit of everyone in north Staffordshire and Stafford?

Joan Walley: I am conscious that many hon. Members want to speak. My hon. Friend has pre-empted two points that I want to make, so I will go straight to them.

If we accept that it is the trust special administrator’s report that is taking us forward in north Staffordshire in respect of the application by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire to take over Stafford hospital, there are two aspects to consider. The first is that there is a revenue shortfall of £4 million; and secondly, there is a capital shortfall of £29 million. I raised that matter at Prime Minister’s Question Time last week without realising that I was doing so prior to the written statement having been made available to the House of Commons. It is vital that the Government recognise that this gap must somehow be closed as the University Hospital of North Staffordshire moves forward, possibly under a new name, in taking on responsibility for this. In looking at the figures that have been put forward by the very diligent and committed directors and staff at UHNS, it is vital that the Government take account of the fact that in making a bid to take on services, those people know what they are doing, they have the expertise, and they know what changes will be needed for capital investment in Stoke and in Stafford. The gap should be closed; otherwise, Stoke-on-Trent will end up paying for the cost of bailing out Stafford hospital.

Sir Tony Baldry: Will the hon. Lady kindly explain to those of us who are not Staffordshire colleagues what the relationship is between the trust special administrator and the clinical commissioning group? It is helpful to try to understand who is running the NHS in Staffordshire, because what is happening there today may well happen in Oxfordshire tomorrow.

Joan Walley: It was suggested earlier that we might need a special debate, at length, solely on the trust special administrator, so that we can look at how this is being resolved in Staffordshire, and I would agree with that. There was also a suggestion in a previous debate that we need a debate solely on the Care Bill and its implications for changing that. Lots of different things are going on in parallel, but not in an integrated way. The real failure would be for the Government to allow the two procedures to go forward without understanding the changes made in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which shift all the responsibility from the Secretary of State down to the commissioning bodies.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Here we are again trying to find some way of having a centralised Government system, when no matter what anybody says to the TSA or to anybody else, if the local commissioning group chooses not to go ahead and commission the services that the TSA has identified and the Government have said will be funded, those services will not be provided. I cannot understand how we are in this situation where we are not looking at all the implications of what is happening.

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When the Government announced last week in a written statement that they had accepted in full the recommendations of the TSA’s report, I expected that, as a result, the UHNS would proceed quickly to implement what had been agreed in the hope that there would be a process to close the funding gap in one way or another.

The problem that I wish to give back to the Government and ask them to comment on in detail—the Secretary of State has had a detailed letter from me about this—is the uncertainty that arises as a result of the comments that were made by the Prime Minister and in a statement about obstetrics-led and consultant-led maternity provision in Stafford. On an emotional level, I absolutely agree that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh and the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) said, we need maternity services in situ that are easily accessible, and not only in Stafford but right across the country. However, my head says that the detailed financial arrangements that we currently have for maternity provision and the model that is apparently proposed do not allow for that kind of option.

We are therefore in a situation whereby people are, rightly, campaigning to have maternity services close to where they live, but the rigid procedures laid down either nationally or locally do not permit the additional funding for that. This is not just about having additional funding but about capacity in the form of trained, expert people able to deliver those services. If neither the funding nor the capacity is there, there is no point in any amount of hoping that we can have such maternity-led services in small district general hospitals, in whatever part of the country. The Government have to address that, but they cannot do so as part and parcel of the way in which they are taking forward the new configuration of health services across north Staffordshire. When the Minister replies, I want a very detailed response to the questions that I have asked the Secretary of State and given to his office, as he is aware; I am grateful for that.

The MPs concerned have met the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to try to get some clarity on this. Until we get clarity, we cannot proceed to deal with the situation that we now have across mid-Staffordshire and in north Staffordshire. When is NHS England going to report on the further review? May we have a detailed time scale for that? To what extent will that delay the possibility of the UHNS board taking forward the new services? Already, 14 extra ambulances a day are bringing people from Stafford to Stoke-on-Trent, and staff are leaving Stafford hospital. We desperately need certainty about how this is being taken forward. When the Minister replies, the Government must set out in detail how they expect to be able to accept the TSA’s recommendations in full and then add an addendum without there being any mechanism to enable it to be implemented.

Paul Farrelly: Does my hon. Friend agree that the Francis report is all about patient safety? What happened at Stafford is a blot on the history of the NHS from a patient safety point of view. North Staffs hospital has reopened beds to cope with the crisis in A and E and admissions on the grounds of patient safety and therefore already has a deficit. The overriding concern of patient safety must mean that any solution for Stafford involving North Staffs has to be financially stable.

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Joan Walley: I agree that the Francis report is absolutely about patient safety. It is also about financial viability. Unless the Government respond very speedily, set all this out in detail, and arrange for there to be proper talks on it, there is a real danger that we could end up transporting the tragedy that happened in Mid Staffordshire elsewhere. We need urgent clarity on this at the earliest possible opportunity.

Other aspects that I wished to raise include the whole issue of special needs and the way in which Staffordshire county council is closing down day service centres without having had a proper assessment of what is needed, putting added strain on hospitals. That comes back to the points made in the Francis report about integrating services, and so on and so forth. If this debate means that we can at least get some clarity about the position with regard to the UHNS taking forward services at Stafford hospital, then it will have been worth while.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Before I call the next speaker, although this debate is due to run until 7 pm and obviously there will need to be time for the winding-up speeches, at the moment Members are speaking for 20 minutes or more. We will simply not have enough time to get everybody in if each Member speaks for that long. I am not proposing to set a time limit now, but I ask Members to give some consideration to their colleagues. Watch the clock—this is not a criticism of any previous speakers—and try to come in somewhere between 10 and 15 minutes, which is ample time. If that fails, I am afraid we will need a time limit, but I do not propose one at the moment.

3.29 pm

Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): I will certainly watch the clock very carefully, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I want to pick up on one or two of the contributions that have already been made, particularly that by the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), with whom I agree about statistics. Given how much reliance we need to place on some of the absolutely key statistics about mortality, the manner and timeliness of their collection and publication, and the certainty with which we can then act, are very important.

The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) made a fantastic speech; it was very thoughtful indeed. His comments about the need to listen to individual stories and complaints, which is absolutely key, were echoed in subsequent contributions. It is also important, as he said, for chief executives to see and sign responses to letters of complaint and, indeed, for boards to be much more clearly sighted on, and open to, such issues. He also made it clear that it is absolutely key to join the dots between individual cases in order to identify, challenge and take cases forward.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) made some very important points about the TSA process, which I think we will come back to next Monday or Tuesday. There are issues about how that system has always operated, how it is evolving and how it is being used, and we need to be clear about what should happen before a TSA process even starts. There are too many examples of the NHS not being very good at changing services and making compelling cases to the population. Too often, the case is made behind

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closed doors and then sold as a finished product to the public, rather than being co-designed by the public and stakeholders such as hon. Members, local councillors and many others. Until the NHS has a culture that is open to that sort of approach, we will always wind up with a crisis in administration, health care or finance that gives the pretext for triggering a TSA process. For those reasons, the hon. Lady is right to raise the issue.

Paul Farrelly: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Paul Burstow: I cannot, because of what Madam Deputy Speaker has said.

My main point is about mental health. It is important that we discuss mental health in the context of Francis, because in their response the Government said:

“Whilst this poor care was in a hospital, poor care can occur anywhere across the health and social care system.”

That is absolutely right and we need to keep it in mind. I very much support the work the Government are doing to change the culture and to have more openness and compassion, and I think that an ethic of learning is part of that.

I want to focus on mental health because we could be in danger of missing it out in all this. I am convinced that there remains an institutional bias in how mental health is treated, and that needs to be tackled. We still have a long way to go to deliver the parity of esteem that this Government have put into legislation, that we have established in policy and that is now accepted, I think, as what we should all aspire to.

Francis talked about

“an engrained culture of tolerance of poor standards”,

which the issue of mental health throws into stark relief, including premature mortality figures that show a huge gap in life expectancy for those with severe mental health problems; the fact that only one in four people with mental health problems receives any treatment; and the absence until next year of waiting time targets, standards, choice and proper measurements for mental health.

The NHS has always treated mental health as a poor relation to physical health and it has a long way to go to catch up, but I welcome the fact that this Government are taking some of those steps. We need to take them as rapidly and as sensibly as we can. Another example is the routine failure to provide NICE-recommended treatments. The iniquity whereby some things are “must dos”, while others just become nice NICE things to do, cannot be right and must be changed. It is good news that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is leading work on changes to standards.

Francis talked about a failure to put patients first in everything that is done. We see that with the 7,700 people who end up in a prison cell, which they call a place of safety. The most recent figures include 41 children, which is a shocking indictment and is surely unacceptable. I just wonder whether the time has come to consider whether to attach a sunset provision to the use of powers under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 so that, over the next three or four years, we work towards no children finding themselves in a prison cell because of a mental health crisis and, in due course, no adults finding themselves in a prison cell—

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The Minister of State, Department of Health (Norman Lamb): Police cell.

Paul Burstow: I am grateful to the Minister for correcting the record from a sedentary position.

There were 350 children on adult wards in 2013-14, including one as young as 12, and the use of restraint has been at a high level. I know that the Minister for care services is championing changes in that area. I very much welcome his leadership on the crisis care concordat. It is very important that the CQC leads on regulation to show that it is not just words, but will be backed by regulatory teeth.

The culture change also needs to be about listening to patients. The evidence again suggests that there is still a long way to go. The Care Quality Commission has found that a quarter of care plans showed no evidence of patient involvement. That cannot be right, whether for a long-term physical health condition or a mental health problem.

We have only just had a tariff for mental health. When I arrived as a Minister with responsibility for it, I found that the task of producing tariffs had already taken five years, having dragged on and on. Yet because of the difference in how we funded mental health services, it was easier to cut them in the past. The picture of spending on mental health is rather more nuanced than it is sometimes portrayed in debates in this place.

Given all that, we might have expected NHS England to ensure that its response to the Francis inquiry and to the Government response recognised that poor care can occur in mental health as well. The chair of NHS England, Malcolm Grant, has put his name to the statement of common purpose that prefaces the Government response to Francis. Yet NHS England has ignored this Government’s mandate to it to deliver parity of esteem. NHS England’s financial experts do not get it: they are delivering Francis’s agenda simply for the acute sector, and taking money away from mental health services through adjustments to how payments are made for them. That cannot be right. I know that the Minister agrees with me, but doing so is not sufficient: there must be a challenge to NHS England’s decision to take away money from mental health, given that both sectors need to make progress and to take steps to deal with the Francis agenda.

Norman Lamb: I just want to alert my right hon. Friend to the fact that David Nicholson, the chief executive of NHS England, has made it clear to area teams and therefore to clinical commissioning groups that they must take parity of esteem fully into account in financial settlements with mental health trusts. That clarification of the importance of parity of esteem on finances is critical, and I hope that he welcomes it.

Paul Burstow: I very much welcome that and what the Minister says.

The reason I have raised issues about mental health in this debate is that it would be a mistake for Members to see Francis simply through the lens of acute hospital care. As the Government said in their response to Francis, we need to be concerned right across the piece. That is why I make no apology for focusing my speech on mental health, and why I hope that the Government will continue to drive an agenda of parity of esteem and make it a reality.

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3.39 pm

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): I will focus on the impact of the Francis report on my local hospital in Tameside.

Tameside hospital has been a major issue for me, as the MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and it featured prominently in my election literature in 2010. At the general election, I pledged to work with my hon. Friends the Members for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) and for Ashton-under-Lyne (David Heyes), to resolve what we believed to be the serious problems at Tameside hospital by building on their work and statements in the previous Parliament. Securing improvements at the hospital has been a priority for all of us and it will continue to be so. The stance that we have taken, combined with the work of Sir Bruce Keogh, has allowed genuine improvements to take place at Tameside and I am proud of that work.

I regret the journey that there has been in this Parliament towards making Francis a more partisan issue. The Prime Minister’s initial statement on the matter was quite admirable and the work of Sir Bruch Keogh offered a way forward for problem hospitals such as mine. We all stand to lose that if we try to game it for partisan advantage. There is a feeling that the Government have tried to obscure the unpopularity of the NHS reorganisation by doing so. Surely we can all agree that the two matters should not be conflated.

I love the NHS, but I love my constituents even more. If any institution is letting them down, I will not hesitate to call it out. I believe that that is true of all my Opposition colleagues.

The recommendations of the Francis report were, without doubt, an important contribution to improving the quality of health care in England. The circumstances that led to the creation of the Francis inquiry threatened to undermine public faith in the NHS, and a serious and independent investigation into those factors was crucial to maintain people’s trust in the NHS. That investigation was begun by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), in whom I have tremendous faith.

The stories of poor care at Mid Staffordshire and other NHS trusts were indefensible and often heartbreaking. I hope that we never see such instances again in the NHS. However, it is important that we also take this opportunity to commend the thousands of doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to provide people in this country with the very best of care. The people who work for the NHS, including those from overseas who choose to come and work in the NHS, do an incredible job and they must always know that we appreciate them greatly.

Following the publication of the Francis report, my local trust, Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, was one of five trusts that were investigated by Sir Bruce Keogh. It was not the work or recommendations of the Francis inquiry that were of the most immediate significance to my area, but the fact that the publication of the report sparked a chain of events that had a significant impact on the delivery of care at the local hospital in Tameside.

At the time of publication, Tameside had the second worst record for hospital deaths. Data from the summary hospital-level mortality indicator showed that 18% more

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patients than expected died at Tameside in the 12 months leading up to June 2012. The standards of care at the hospital had been of concern to the public for some time. I should perhaps mention that the information on Tameside hospital was complicated by the legacy of the crimes of Harold Shipman in my constituency. That had a huge impact on how people thought about care at the end of their life and on where they went for that care. That was always a plausible excuse for the mortality scores, but there was a need to push past the excuse and discover the real causes.

In the light of those problems, I cited my concerns about aspects of care at Tameside hospital on the record on several occasions, acting in conjunction with my hon. Friends the Members for Denton and Reddish and for Ashton-under-Lyne. We had already called for the resignation of the trust’s chief executive so that the hospital could improve.

The problems at Tameside were indicative of the broader issues that Francis and Keogh were attempting to address. The confidence of the local community in members of the senior management team had all but disappeared. That led to problems often not being adequately addressed or even acknowledged. The hospital became defensive and saw the issue as one of public relations management, rather than service improvement.

There is a fundamental point that we must grasp if we are properly to understand what factors contribute to the level of public trust. People understand that mistakes are sometimes made. That is the case in all professions and walks of life. However, people cannot understand it—and nor should they—when mistakes happen but no serious attempt is made to address the concerns of patients or clinicians in an open and transparent way to resolve the issues.

Sadly, that is exactly what happened for too long at Tameside hospital. In the worst cases, the hospital management actively tried to downplay the problems raised by patients, family members, elected representatives and even, in some cases, each other. That behaviour is not acceptable and a failure to address it undermines public faith in the NHS.

Putting the spotlight on these hospitals has had some success in breaking through this culture, and Tameside now has a clear set of objectives on which to develop a strategy for improvement. Without the Francis report and the subsequent work of Sir Bruce Keogh, that long overdue process of improvement at Tameside hospital might not have happened. We as local MPs would still be calling for those changes to happen, but we would not have had the expert analysis that the process provided to back up what we were saying.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for setting out the case. Does he share my confidence that the hospital has indeed turned a corner? Part of that is down to the buddying arrangements with the University Hospital of South Manchester in Wythenshawe and the excellent interim leadership of Karen James.

Jonathan Reynolds: I endorse those comments entirely and thank my hon. Friend for his contribution. The negative attention that the hospital received as part of

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the Keogh investigation was undoubtedly the catalyst for the departure of the former chief executive in 2013, and the first step on the road to improvement.

It is important, however, for us to note the limits of Government’s capacity to push this agenda. Of course, Government have to be the ones who set the framework for improvement in the NHS, but cultural changes can properly come only from the front line. What Tameside hospital now has is a set of recommendations to be implemented, a framework for the delivery of those changes, and new leadership which, ultimately, will deliver the improvements that patients in our area need. I still visit the hospital regularly; indeed, I was there on Friday last week, and I am pleased to say that in my view it is certainly turning a corner. I hope the Government maintain their commitment to all the Francis recommendations, and ensure that the high expectations are hardwired into the NHS’s leaders.

Just before Christmas, I was walking my dogs in Stalybridge as usual, and a friend of mine whom I had not seen for quite a long time shouted over to me. He explained that he had been receiving treatment for more than a year at Tameside hospital. Over that time he had been able to witness, in his words, visible improvements to his care and to how the hospital was run and how it functioned, due to the changes facilitated by the Francis report, the Keogh inquiry and, I believe, the work of myself and my hon. Friends. We will not stop that work or feel self-satisfied because of it, but I am pleased that we have been able to make that difference. That, ultimately, is what we should all be trying to bring about by discussing the anniversary of the Francis report.

3.47 pm

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con): It is quite difficult at this stage in the saga—the tragedy—of Stafford hospital to recall how it all came about and the difficulties that those of us who experienced it had to endure, the patients and the victims in particular. There was complete and total resistance—indeed, worse than that, a granite-like refusal—to having a proper look at what was going on. It would take much longer than I have available this afternoon to explain exactly the tooth and nail battle that I had to engage in to get the inquiry in the first place under the Inquiries Act 2005.

In a previous incarnation as the Member for Stafford, I had already had Stafford hospital in my constituency for 14 years, from the date of a by-election some 30 years ago in May 1984. I experienced a tragedy in Stafford hospital during that time with legionnaire’s disease, and I came to this House and asked the then Prime Minister, the late Margaret Thatcher, whether she would give us a full public inquiry—equivalent to one under the provisions of the 2005 Act. I did that because I knew it was impossible to get to the root of what was going on unless we had such forensic evidence, with cross-examination on oath and all the other—not paraphernalia, but necessary ingredients as part of the process, to ensure that we could bring to light what was required.

I was absolutely astonished that successive Secretaries of State completely refused, point-blank, to have such an inquiry in the case of Mid Staffordshire. I have to put it on record that the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), who is not even in the House this afternoon—perhaps he has some

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excuse or justification—was the Secretary of State during a lot of the time in question. Patricia Hewitt was also Secretary of State for part of the time when serious problems were going on. The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle refused to have a public inquiry. The right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) also refused to have an inquiry of the 2005 Act type. Although it is certainly true that he agreed to a Francis inquiry, and that there was also the Alberti report, the Colin-Thomé report and one or two other investigative exercises, none of them had the right ingredients to give them the capacity to get to the root of what was going on.

I am delighted with what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done since then. I was extremely glad that, when we were in opposition, I was able to overcome some resistance to a 2005 Act inquiry from shadow Ministers. The current Prime Minister, then the Leader of the Opposition, listened to the arguments that I and others made and agreed to have a full 2005 Act inquiry, because he understood how important it was, as the Secretary of State does. The consequence has been to enable us to make changes throughout the entire health service that, as Opposition Members have acknowledged today, have enabled us in Staffordshire to be a pathfinder for solving some, if not all, of the problems presented in the health service.

The work of Cure the NHS has included that of my constituent Deborah Hazeldine. She does not get a great deal of publicity, but she was the one who came to me in my office in December 2008, with Julie Bailey, and explained that they were getting nowhere with the complaints and concerns that they were expressing. They asked what could be done about it, and I explained to them that if they did certain things, I thought we would be able to get a campaign moving of the kind that would be needed to get a 2005 Act inquiry. I pay tribute to them, and to Ken Lownds, who has been a tower of strength. He is a man of enormous integrity, knowledge, skill and commitment. I pay tribute to him for what he did to ensure that we got the inquiry, for the evidence that he gave to it and for his continual determined input into improving the health service since the Francis report was produced.

I am delighted that the Francis report came out as it did. It had, I believe, 299 recommendations, and it has been immensely important to the future of the health service. I do not need to go into all the details, but I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), my next-door neighbour, with whom I worked closely from the beginning. He committed himself to a 2005 Act inquiry when he was in what could be described as the delicate situation of being about to become the Member of Parliament for Stafford but not entirely certain that it would happen. He did it, and he was right, and I pay tribute to him for everything that he has done since.

Mr Jeremy Hunt: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his generous comments. While he is paying tribute to people who have played an important role in getting us to where we are, may I add my thanks to Deborah Hazeldine, and also to Ken Lownds, who was the first person who really talked to me about the important concept of zero-harm health care? I know my hon. Friend will not mind if I also mention campaigners

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from other hospitals, such as James Titcombe in the case of Morecambe Bay, who have also played an extremely important role in the debate.

Mr Cash: I am extremely glad that my right hon. Friend has made that point. The zero-harm policy is so important, and I am grateful for that specific intervention. It will make Ken Lownds’s day. I also pay tribute to people all over the country who have taken up the message and sought to improve the health service in their areas. This has turned into a national campaign, and the Secretary of State deserves great credit for the way he has helped to co-ordinate it.

I was, and remain, completely amazed that the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, and Patricia Hewitt, were not even asked to give evidence to the inquiry. I still find that completely staggering to my way of thinking. I know that the right hon. Member for Leigh was asked to give evidence, and did, but I place the point on the record because I found it extraordinarily difficult to understand then, and I still do now.

I have constantly and repeatedly called for the resignation of Sir David Nicholson. I know he is retiring soon and that that resignation will not happen, but I repeat my concern, as I did in evidence to the inquiry, because the whole target-based policy was very much tied up with his approach to these matters. Indeed, in the last of, I think, about 600 paragraphs of his evidence to the inquiry, he referred in the last two lines to the fact that the Member of Parliament for Stone, Mr Bill Cash, had raised the question of his involvement in target-based policies. He said that there were arguments on both sides of the equation regarding target-based policies, but I do not agree with that. I do not think target-based policies were the right way to go, and I am glad that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley) agreed with me. As I pointed out in my evidence to the inquiry, such policies had a terrible effect on the attitude of Monitor regarding the financing issues that provided 39 of the 45 or so questions put by William Moyes to the foundation trust when it received its approbation—something it should never, ever, have got. I say to the right hon. Member for Leigh that through the mechanism of the Department—I cannot point precisely to chapter and verse—the fact that the foundation trust got such status was also the product of a misjudgment by the Government at the time.

I have already referred to correspondence in an intervention, but in the prime ministerial guidelines of 2005, under the previous Government, it was clearly stated that when Members of Parliament write to Secretaries of State and other senior Ministers, they are entitled to receive a full, comprehensive response—personally—from that Minister. I found that wanting during this process. I was glad to note, however, that in the course of evidence to the inquiry, the situation moved from what appeared to be resistance to going down that route, to an acceptance that—to paraphrase from the evidence given by the chief executive of the Department of Health—from now on, when a Member of Parliament writes with a letter from a constituent, and explains that things have not gone properly regarding that constituent’s health problems, there is a mechanism to ensure that the issue is dealt with properly. I will not have to go into all that today, because it has been rectified.

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In my evidence, I also raised the issue of whistleblowing. I also tabled amendments to the then health legislation, calling for the repudiation of gagging clauses and providing that any chief executive who endorsed them and got his legal advisers to agree to them should be dismissed. That is another area that has been dealt with, so we are making progress. I very much endorse the views expressed on both sides of the House about having unity across the Floor of the House, as far as we can achieve it, on the central principles.

I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford said about the issue, although I have a difference, not of opinion but of emphasis, because my constituency is very rural, and access to the artery of the M6 is not easy. It can be difficult to reach, especially at night, because it can be a long way through small rural lanes, to access the M6 and the University hospital of North Staffordshire or hospitals in Wolverhampton. That is my caveat on that.

We have made enormous progress. I am glad that the Mid Staffs foundation trust is being dissolved, and that—as my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford said—the Prime Minister, at a recent Prime Minister’s questions, backed plans, in as many words, for consultant-led maternity to continue at Stafford hospitals. That service, plus paediatric services, critical care and a 24-hour emergency service, is necessary for constituents in Stone and the rest of Staffordshire. I will work with my hon. Friend to ensure that that is delivered.

Joan Walley: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there could be some inconsistency between those two conflicting things unless we get immediate clarity from the Government about the time scale in which they will be taken forward?

Mr Cash: That point will have been taken on board by the Secretary of State, who is in his place. One of the good things about the present Secretary of State is that he does listen. He takes things on board and follows them up. Some Secretaries of State do not always do that—they nod, but they do not necessarily do that.

Joan Walley: In that case, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would like to invite the Secretary of State to come to the Dispatch Box and tell us when the timing will be resolved, because we have this continuing uncertainty.

Mr Cash: I shall not engage in a vicarious ping-pong match with the hon. Lady. The point has been made and taken—I see that the Secretary of State is nodding—and I know that other people wish to speak, so I shall try to bring my remarks to a close.

Paul Farrelly: I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his persistence, and to the work of the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy), who was elected only in 2010; this has been the dominating subject of his time in the House.

As well as concerns about the length and cost of the administration process, the University hospital of North Staffordshire has raised concerns that it has not been able to do its own full due diligence at the same time. We

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cannot quite put our finger on whether that has been because of the administration process or concerns about competition. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when such situations arise in future—and hopefully that will be rarely—we will need to speed things up in a collaborative way and that competition issues will not surface?

Mr Cash: I am concerned that there should be a maximum degree of co-operation and collaboration, and perceptible unity has been demonstrated across the Floor of the House on the question of achieving co-operation in the national interest. It is extremely good that that is happening. This is not just about us as MPs; this is much, much more important. This is about victims, patient care, zero harm and people having confidence in the health service. It is absolutely essential that across the Floor of the House we achieve the maximum possible amount of collaboration on this matter.

I wrote to Mr Francis in July 2009 to ask for an inquiry under the 2005 Act, and expressed my concerns regarding the Healthcare Commission investigation at that time. In fact, in that January I had submitted a list of questions, which I had put together with Cure the NHS, Ken Lownds, Julie Bailey and Deborah Hazeldine, to ask what the Healthcare Commission was going to do by way of a report. The HCC reported in March and I hope that our intervention at that point was helpful. If those questions had not been asked, I am not quite sure what the HCC would have said. I was concerned that the reviews by Dr Laker, Professor Alberti and David Colin-Thomé were not as independent as I felt they should be. That is what led me to step up my campaign for the 2005 Act inquiry, for the reasons I gave at the beginning of my remarks.

I pay tribute to all those, from all parts of the House, who have helped to address the matters with which the Francis report has so ably dealt. I remain concerned that some people who should have given evidence were not called to do so, but we now have the report. At long last, after calling for a debate on, I think, 15 occasions, we are holding it. I am absolutely delighted that we are making progress nationally to improve the national health service. Long may it continue.

4.7 pm

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): I want to talk about the Francis report, which detailed failures that were a betrayal of NHS values—we have heard repeatedly about those failures in this debate—but before I do so I will speak briefly about NHS change day, which shows so much that is good about the values of the NHS.

This week saw the second NHS change day. It is a front line-led movement, the largest of its kind, with the shared purpose of improving health and care. Its mission is to inspire and mobilise people everywhere—NHS staff, patients and the public—to do something better together to improve care for people. Hon. Members have until 31 March to make pledges for NHS changes, and it may be that Ministers and shadow Ministers will want to adopt some of them. Some inspirational pledges have been made that are making a real difference to care. An example I like is the “Hello, my name is...” campaign by Dr Kate Granger.

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In December 2012, Dr Kate Granger was herself an in-patient, and she noticed how infrequently health care professionals introduced themselves. She wrote:

“As a healthcare professional you know so much about your patient. You know their name, their personal details, their health conditions, and much more. What do we as patients know about our healthcare professionals? The answer is often absolutely nothing, sometimes it seems not even their names. The balance of power is very one-sided in favour of the healthcare professional.”

It might seem astonishing that a campaign to encourage health care staff to introduce themselves to patients is needed, but it is an important part of the change in culture that people are trying to bring about.

Some 390,000 pledges have been made for the second NHS change day. It will run to the end of March, so that figure might reach half a million. This is a very good movement inside the NHS to improve care, in addition to the important matters we are discussing today. It is valuable that NHS staff, patients and carers are making pledges to do just that.

It is clear that staffing is one of the most important issues in the Francis report. The report talks about

“a lack of staff, both in terms of absolute numbers and appropriate skills”.

A survey of nurses published by Nursing Times one year on from the Francis report found that more than half those surveyed believed that their wards remained dangerously understaffed. Indeed, 39% of those who responded warned that staffing levels had worsened in the past 12 months. Various numbers have been bandied about during the debate, but that is a key factor. Only 22%—a fifth—of the nurses surveyed reported an improvement. I think it notable that more than half said that their own wards were dangerously understaffed, because that is the same percentage as a year ago. If understaffing was identified as an issue in the Francis report, it is still an issue now.

I believe that one pledge that politicians can make to improve care in the NHS is a pledge to support the Safe Staffing Alliance. The fundamental standard is a ratio of no more than eight patients to one nurse; other key aspects of safe staffing are use of a management tool to work out the safe staffing levels and the publication of staffing levels so that they can be seen by patients and their families. Let me repeat what I have said to Ministers a number of times over the last year, now that they recognise that Salford Royal is an excellent hospital. Salford Royal works out minimum staffing levels with a management tool, and publishes actual versus planned staffing levels on whiteboards on the wards every day. Again and again, we hear about failures in hospitals that, like the failure at Mid Staffordshire, are related to understaffing and the awful position in which it puts nursing staff. In another debate on this subject, the Secretary of State said:

“Salford Royal is one of the best hospitals in the country and we should always learn from what it does”.—[Official Report, 19 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 1107.]

I hope that he will now start to take his own advice.

People in Salford were thrilled when Salford Royal’s chief executive, David Dalton, was knighted earlier this year. I believe that that was well deserved, because Salford Royal and David Dalton have done a huge amount to improve patient safety and reduce mortality. In its report “After Francis”, the Health Committee said that it had

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“been impressed by the approach of Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust to the development of a staffing management tool. This appears to the Committee to be good practice, and the Committee recommends the adoption of this or similar systems across the NHS.”

Other Members have also mentioned that.

The Health Committee also said—we keep returning to staffing levels—that

“Ensuring adequate levels of both clinically- and non-clinically-qualified staff in all circumstances is therefore a fundamental requirement of high quality care, whatever the financial circumstances.”

As I have said, that is a key point. It is clear to me what should be done to ensure safe staffing levels—we have that excellent example—but it is also clear to me that the Government’s proposal for monthly publication of staffing levels is not adequate. Robert Francis is a convert to the position of the Safe Staffing Alliance and has said that minimum safe staffing levels should be drawn up by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and policed by the Care Quality Commission. He did not say that in his report, but he has subsequently said it to the CQC.

As we heard earlier in the debate, the Francis report was published as the Government’s NHS reforms took effect. It is clear that the structural changes involved in their unnecessary top-down reorganisation have caused upheaval and created new problems. Many Members have talked about restructuring decisions today. Those decisions are proving impossible to implement in many parts of the country, because there is no one really in charge. The chair of the British Medical Association, Dr Mark Porter, made that point earlier this year. Reorganisation costs are another problem, because they have taken money away from patient care. Change of that kind has not improved care in the NHS and has worked against the recommendations of the Francis report. As we heard earlier, the findings of surveys identify the problems that have been caused: seven out of 10 NHS staff members think that the Government’s reorganisation has had a negative impact on patient care, while only 3% think that it has improved patient care. That is a vote against what the Government have done.

Nothing makes the impact of the reforms clearer than the deteriorating performance of A and E departments and the crisis in recruitment to them. It is interesting to note the Public Accounts Committee report this week, which is in a very similar vein to that of the Health Committee. We know that more patients are waiting in A and E departments for longer than four hours: last year the figure was 1 million, whereas in 2009-10 it was only 345,000. The numbers speak for themselves. We know, too, that emergency admissions have increased by 51% in the past decade, with a 26% rise in admissions of over-85s in four years. That is serious: the biggest cause of pressure on local A and E services is the rising number of frail and older people with multiple long-term conditions.

Some Members have questioned the relevance of this to the Francis report, saying we should not be discussing all these issues, but I disagree. If we are concerned about safety and mortality rates, what happens on admission to A and E is a key factor. The consequences if things start going wrong was well understood by Salford Royal hospital: more people were dying unnecessarily at the weekends because of a lack of consultant cover, so the hospital changed that. Work on

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safety does not ignore what is going on in A and E or how much consultant cover there is; instead, it takes that into account and does something about it.

I am concerned that the number of frail older people attending A and E will continue to increase and that that situation will worsen as a result of continued cuts to social care budgets. We had a warning about that from Sandie Keene, director of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. She said