Dr Therese Coffey MP
Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal
House of Commons
020 7219 7164
07 April 2011
Dr Mr Foley,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Government's Health and Social Care Bill.
The Government's plans to modernise the NHS retain the underlying principle - to ensure everyone is provide with great healthcare, free at the point of use and based on need and not ability to pay.
However, when the NHS faces the twin pressures of an ageing population and of advances in medicine, we must always be looking to modernise and improve our NHS services, starting now.
Additional funding was put in over the last 13 years and at the last election, the Conservative Party was the only party to pledge real increases for the NHS budget each and every year of this Parliament - and we have kept that pledge.
Despite the years of extra funding, productivity in hospitals has declined by 15 per cent over the previous 10 years. Despite the best efforts of its staff, the NHS doesn't achieve the best outcomes. Someone in this country is twice as likely to die from a heart attack as someone in France, survival rates for cervical, colorectal and breast cancer are amongst the worst in the OECD and premature mortality rates from respiratory disease are worse than the EU average. Despite previous reforms, the number of managers in the NHS doubled under the previous Government and whole tiers of bureaucracy continue to restrict the decisions of doctors and nurses.
The new Health Bill will give responsibility for the majority of the NHS budget to frontline family doctors - instead of remote Primary Care Trusts - so that they can shape services according to the needs of the patients they see every day. This key change to the bottom-up, patient-centred approach in the NHS was in the Conservative Party manifesto and in the Coalition Agreement.
The changes we are making are clear:
- Shifting power and resources from the back-office to frontline staff and communities
- Devolving decision-making power from bureaucracy to doctors and nurses
- Giving patients more information and choice about where they are treated
- Introducing local accountability with a new powerful role for local Government
As a result of these modernisation plans, the NHS will be able to save £5 billion by reducing the unnecessary administration in the NHS over this Parliament. Because the Government is protecting the NHS budget, all of these savings will be reinvested where they should be - in treating patients.
We are making real progress:
- Since the General Election, there are 3,000 fewer managers (beginning to reverse the doubling in the number of managers under Labour) and 2,500 more doctors - and our new 'Health and Wellbeing Boards' to drive integration and democratic accountability in the NHS are being established in 90% of the country
- Groups of GPs from over 6,500 practices now cover 45 million people in our 'pathfinder consortia', taking the lead in improving local NHS services
- We are being more transparent about hospital performance: on things like hospital-acquired infections, and the number of times patients are placed in mixed-sex accommodation
But we also recognise there are some big questions about what we're doing. Patients and carers want to see how our changes will improve services for them. Doctors and nurses are asking about what are plans will mean for them. We hear that - and we want to continue to work with them.
Concern has been expressed on timing and suggestions are being made that GP commissioning is untested. This is not the case. GP commissioning already exists today and there are a large number of doctors across Suffolk who have formed consortia as Pathfinders. Learnings will be taken from them and used across Suffolk and the country to make the transition.
Now that the Health and Social Care Bill has successfully completed its Committee stage in the Commons, we're going to take the opportunity of a natural break in the legislative process to pause, listen reflect and improve. This is a genuine listening exercise: where there are good suggestions to improve the legislation and the implementation of our plans, changes will be made.
The Government is shortly launching a website - www.dh.gov.uk/healthandcare - which will allow everyone to have their say. A series of events will be staged to hear from the NHS directly and a team of frontline doctors and nurses are to be recruited to act as expert advisers - the NHS Future Panel - on our modernisation plans.
I can assure you that this is not about the NHS being privatised or other incredible suggestions. It is about having an NHS that truly puts the patient at its heart, has confidence in GPs making clinical decisions and together deciding how tratment can and should be made.