Parliamentary update – February 2023

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In late January the Government announced its plan to reduce elective and emergency waits, they also took questions on firearms licencing and provision of practice premises.

Statement on Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan

30 January – read/watch in full

Rt Hon Steven Barclay MP (Con: NE Cambridgeshire), Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 

Today’s announcement is the second of three plans to cut waiting times in the NHS. Our elective recovery plan is already in action, virtually eliminating the backlog of two-year waits in England. Our primary care recovery plan will be published in the next few weeks, to support the vital front door to the NHS through primary care. Today, together with NHS England, we are setting out our plans to reduce waiting times in urgent and emergency care through an increased focus on demand management before patients get to hospital, and greater support to enable patients to leave hospital more quickly through care at home or in the community, supported by a clinical safety net. In addition, the plan sets out how we will adopt best practice in hospitals by learning from the trusts that have displayed the greatest resilience in meeting the heightened pressures this winter.

We are committing to year-on-year improvement in A&E waiting times. By next March, we want 76% of patients to be seen within four hours. In the year after that, we will bring waiting times towards pre-pandemic levels. Our second ambition is to improve ambulance response times, with a specific commitment to bring category 2 response times—those emergency calls for heart attacks and strokes—to an average of 30 minutes by next March. Again, in the following year we will work to bring ambulance response times towards pre-pandemic levels.

Taken together, this plan will cut urgent and emergency care waiting times by, first, increasing capacity with 800 new ambulances on the road, of which 100 are new specialised mental health ambulances. This comes together with funding to support 5,000 new hospital beds, as part of the permanent bed base for next winter.

Secondly, we are growing and supporting the workforce. We are on track to deliver on our manifesto commitment to recruit more than 50,000 nurses, with more than 30,000 recruited since 2019. The NHS will publish its long-term workforce plan this year. We are also boosting capacity and staff in social care, supported by investment of up to £2.8 billion next year and £4.7 billion in the year after.

Thirdly, we are speeding up the discharge of patients who are ready to leave hospital, including by freeing up more beds with the full roll-out of integrated care transfer hubs, such as the successful approach I saw this morning at the University Hospital of North Tees.

Fourthly, we are expanding and better connecting new services in the community, such as joined-up care for the frail elderly. This includes a new falls service, so that more elderly people can be treated without needing admission to hospital.

Wes Streeting MP (Lab: Ilford South) – Shadow Secretary of State

After 13 years of Conservative mismanagement, patients are waiting longer than ever before. Heart attack and stroke victims are waiting more than an hour and a half for an ambulance. “24 Hours in A&E” is not just a TV programme; it is the grim reality for far too many patients. Some 7.2 million people are waiting for NHS treatment. Why? The front door is broken—people are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment—so they end up in A&E. At the same time, the exit door is broken because care in the community is not available. Patients are trapped in hospitals, sometimes for months. Between the two is a workforce who are overstretched, burnt out, ignored by Government Ministers and forced out on strike.

Does this plan even attempt to get patients a GP appointment sooner? No. Does this plan restore district nursing so that patients can be cared for in the comfort of their own home? No. Does this plan see Ministers swallowing their pride and entering negotiations with nurses and paramedics? No. And does this plan expand the number of doctors and nurses needed to treat patients on time again? No.

You cannot provide good care in the community, in people’s homes or in hospital without the staff to care for people. That is the supermassive blackhole in his plan published today: people. Virtual wards without any staff is not hospital at home; it is home alone. So where is his plan to restore care in the community? Labour will double the number of district nurses qualifying every year, so can he hurry up and nick that plan too?

Secretary of State

The shadow Secretary of State says that the statement did not cover the plan for GPs. Well, again, I was clear that this was one of three plans. We had the elective plan in the summer, which hit its first milestone. We have the second component today on urgent and emergency care, and we will set out in the coming weeks our approach to primary care.

Questions to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up

20 February – read in full

Andrew Selous (Con: SW Bedfordshire) 

I am running out of ways to describe how unbelievably awful the current system is, which is failing to allocate sufficient increased general practice capacity when we build tens of thousands of new homes. Do the Government recognise the urgency of this matter? If we are going to build housing, people must be able to see a doctor when they move into their new homes. 

Rachel Maclean MP (Con: Redditch) The Minister of State, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Yes, the Government do recognise the urgency of this issue, and I thank my hon. Friend for raising it. He is right to be consistent about it, because, as we recognise, access to healthcare is one of the most important concerns—if not the most important concern —of local communities when new housing is planned. Our community infrastructure levy places much firmer requirements on local planning to engage with healthcare provision in the local community, and I would be happy to meet him to discuss this matter further. 

Statement on shootings in Plymouth

21 February – read in full

Rt Hon Chris Philp (Con: Croydon S) – Minister for Crime and Policing

A new digital marker system to flag firearms owners to GPs is currently being introduced.

Kit Malthouse (Con: NW Hampshire)

We often found medics who would refuse to issue certification to people or would charge excessive fees for certification, and who were therefore not fully participating in the system. Given that this case proves the crucial nature of their assessment to all our safety, what more does the Minister think we can do to impress that on the medical profession?

Minister for Crime and Policing

I completely agree with his points about the medical profession. I echo his call for the medical profession to be proactive when approached by the police in relation to firearms licences and to make full disclosures in consultation with their patients. Where they see a flag that is of concern to them, they should proactively contact the police. There is an ethical and moral duty on the medical profession that they owe to society as a whole, as well as to their patient as an individual. I strongly urge GPs and other medical professionals to keep that wider moral duty firmly in mind and to co-operate with the police on these issues.

House of Commons: Westminster Hall 

  • On 30 January, Tonia Antoniazzi (Lab: Gower) led a debate on immigration fees for healthcare workers. Click to read and watch in full.
  • On 6 February, Elliot Colburn (Con: Carshalton and Wallington) led a debate on Autism and ADHD Assessments. Click to read and watch in full.

House of Commons: Health and Social Care Committee 

  • On 31 January, the committee held an oral evidence session on the NHS Pay Review Body. The session can be watched here.
  • On 31 January, the committee held an oral evidence session on the work of the health department, hearing from Secretary of State Steve Barclay. The session can be watched here.
  • On 7 February, the committee held an oral evidence session on integrated care systems, hearing from minister Helen Whately. The session can be watched here.