Siobhain McDonagh MP (Mitcham and Morden, Labour) asks Edward Argar MP, Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) (Charnwood, Conservative) a question on St Helier Hospital.
The Minister for Health (Edward Argar)
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the health infrastructure plan announcement.
Our health is the nation’s biggest asset, and the NHS is the Government’s top domestic priority. We are backing our commitment to our NHS with record levels of funding. As part of this, today I am pleased to update the House on the biggest, boldest hospital-building programme in a generation. Through our new health infrastructure plan we are supporting more than 40 hospital-building projects across the country, with six getting the go-ahead immediately—HIP 1. That includes £2.7 billion of investment that gives those six hospitals the funding to press ahead with their plans now, alongside last Friday’s investment in technology to ensure that no CT scanner is more than 10 years old.
The six hospital trusts are Barts Health NHS Trust, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Under HIP 2, a further 21 schemes have been given the go-ahead with £100 million seed funding to go to the next stage of developing their plans, subject to business case development. This £2.8 billion capital investment follows on from August’s £850 million for new upgrades, which included, for example, a £72.3 million investment in the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. All of this, of course, comes on top of the £33.9 billion cash increase in funding for the day-to-day running of our NHS.
This announcement represents another part of our long-term, strategic investment in the future of the NHS, properly funded and properly planned, to ensure our world-class healthcare staff have world-class facilities to deliver cutting-edge care and to meet the changing needs and rising demand that the NHS will face in the 2020s and beyond. Capital spend on NHS infrastructure is fundamental to high-quality patient care, from well-designed facilities that promote quicker recovery to staff being better able to care for patients using the equipment and technology that they need. It is also essential to the long-term sustainability of the NHS’s ability to meet healthcare need, unlocking efficiencies and helping to manage demand. The investment we are making in our buildings, our technology and our equipment is vitally important in itself, but it is most important because it gives our fantastic NHS staff the tools they need to do the job.
Our staff are at the heart of the NHS, which is why we have invested in the NHS’s workforce. Our interim NHS people plan has set out immediate actions that we will take to reduce vacancies and secure the staff we need for the future—including addressing pensions tax concerns, increasing university clinical placements by over 5,000 more and bolstering the workforce. But it is only right that we invest in the buildings they work in, and in which they provide first-class care for patients. For too long, Governments of all parties have taken a piecemeal and unco-ordinated approach to NHS buildings and infrastructure.
The health infrastructure plan will change that. In the future, every new hospital built or upgraded must deliver our priorities for the NHS, and happen on time and in a planned way, not the current stop-start that we see.
But NHS infrastructure is more than just large hospitals. Pivotal to the delivery of more personalised, preventive healthcare in the NHS long-term plan is more community and primary care away from hospitals. That requires investment in the right buildings and facilities across the board, where staff can utilise technology such as genomics and artificial intelligence to deliver better care and empower people better to manage their own health.
This is only the beginning. The full shape of the investment programme, including wider NHS infrastructure, digital infrastructure, and wider capital investments that support the economy and health system will be confirmed when the Department receives a multi-year capital settlement at the next capital review.
This is a long-term, strategic investment in the future of our NHS, properly funded and properly planned, to ensure that our world-class healthcare staff have world-class facilities to deliver care and meet changing needs and rising demand, so that the NHS can face the 2020s and beyond with confidence.
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab)
I would always welcome more money for our NHS, but as always the devil is in the detail. The “Shaping a healthier future” programme proposed the closure of four A&Es in north-west London, at a cost of £76 million, but just six months ago the Health Secretary stood at that Dispatch Box to declare the scheme scrapped. The author of that scheme, Daniel Elkeles, is now the chief executive at St Helier, where he is plotting to use these latest funds to reduce two A&Es to one—away from those most in need—which would place intolerable pressure on nearby St George’s. Does the Minister not see a pattern here?
I always think it a little unfair in this House to name or attack individuals where they do not have the ability to answer back. The Government have made it clear that the announcement today and yesterday is about putting more money into our NHS, which will improve services for the hon. Lady’s constituents and for those across the capital and indeed the country.