Conservative Home

« Brandon Lewis: It's time to improve our railway stations | Main | Mark Field MP: The new economic thinking is coming from the East »

Simon Burns MP: The NHS is improving - but to continue progress we must press on with reform

Screen shot 2012-02-19 at 13.08.40Simon Burns is the Member of Parliament for Chelmsford and is a Minister of State at the Department for Health.

Right from the time the Government announced its modernisation plans for the NHS, we have always been clear about what we want the NHS to deliver.

We signalled a decisive shift away from Labour’s political targets and towards an NHS focused on outcomes: whether the care delivered by the NHS is effective; whether patients have a good experience of the care they receive; and whether it is safe.

Labour claim that the NHS has gone backwards over the last 18 months, but on any measures of success, the opposite is true. The NHS is improving all the time.

On how the NHS is delivering care effectively:

  • We have delivered £7 billion of efficiency savings in the NHS since taking power – efficiency savings that have been ploughed straight back into patient care.
  • We have recruited an additional 4,000 doctors and 600 midwives.
  • We have reduced the number of administrative posts in the NHS by more than 15,000.
  • We have increased by 820,000 the number of people seeing an NHS dentist.
  • We have helped more than 10,000 patients get access to the cancer drugs they need through the Cancer Drugs Fund – people who would have been denied these drugs under Labour.
On how the NHS is delivering care which patients have a good experience of:
  • We have reduced waiting times since the General Election: from an average of 8.4 weeks to 7.7 weeks for inpatients, and from 4.3 weeks to 3.8 weeks for outpatients.
  • The number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment is identical to the number at the General Election, the number of patients waiting over six months for treatment has reduced by over 19,000, and the number of patients waiting over one year for treatment has been halved – from 18,458 to 9,190.
  • We have reduced mixed sex accommodation by 95%.
  • And as well as all this, the NHS is now delivering safer care: we have driven down the hospital infections MRSA and C-diff to record lows.

There are two reasons for this progress. The first is that the NHS has the money it needs to improve services. We are protecting the NHS budget with real-terms increases – investment which Labour opposed. Although these increases are less than the NHS has been used to historically, our grip on health inflation means that the NHS is better off than ever before. That is something that could never have happened under Labour, not just because they were committed to cutting NHS funding, but because they would never have tackled the inflation.

The second is reform. Without reform, the NHS will never become the efficient, world-beating health service we want it to be – and that is why the Health and Social Care Bill is so important.

  • For a start, it will allow us to press on with our reductions in bureaucracy – by abolishing Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts we will save £4.5 billion from administrative costs over this Parliament which would not be possible without the Bill.
  • Second, it will give doctors and nurses more power. Decisions about the care delivered in many hospitals are still ultimately taken by managers in Strategic Health Authorities. And GPs are routinely second-guessed by Primary Care Trusts. Frontline GPs need the freedom to determine how the NHS’s money should be spent. Hospitals should have the freedoms to run themselves. But without the Bill, those freedoms can’t be delivered. 
  • Third, it will give patients the best possible care, free of charge on the NHS – whether that is provided by an NHS organisation, a charity or a private sector company. Labour discriminated varyingly either in favour of the NHS or the private sector. But that discrimination meant that doctors were second-guessed about the best possible care for their patients. It meant that patients weren’t given the sort of options about their care that they should have been entitled to. That sort of discrimination should not be allowed. But without the Bill, it will continue to be.

The NHS is improving all the time. But to continue to improve, we must press on with reform.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.