George Freeman outlines the Government’s commitment to extra £10 billion NHS funding

6th July 2016

George Freeman outlines the Government’s commitment to NHS funding with an extra £10 billion in-year by the end of this Parliament. Furthermore, it is frontloaded with £6 billion extra by the end of 2016-17 with an extra £4 billion for technology funding.

Cost of Interpreters

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con)

9. What the cost to the public purse was in 2015-16 of providing interpreters for people using the NHS who did not speak English. [905661]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman)

Until now, data on NHS foreign language translation and interpretation have not been gathered centrally, but I am delighted to say that, as a result of the representations of my hon. Friend and other colleagues, we have changed that, and NHS England is now conducting a major piece of work looking at both commissioning and provider organisations’ expenditure as part of a procurement review. It is worth saying that in view of the importance of effective communication in good diagnosis, informed consent, ​safeguarding and public health, it is in all our interests that all our patients understand what the doctors and clinicians are saying to them.

David T. C. Davies

I am grateful for that answer, but may I respectfully suggest to the Minister that if we are to have a serious discussion about the costs and the impacts of large-scale migration into the UK on the NHS, we must have access to figures on this cost and we should not have to wait months and months to get them? The figures must be out there somewhere.

George Freeman

My hon. Friend will find no more passionate champion of good data in the NHS than myself. He makes an important point about getting on with this, and I have already signalled to the team in NHS England that we will need to get a grip on this quickly, not least so that the new Administration implementing the Brexit decision will know the figures and have them to hand.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con)

I did a recent freedom of information request to my local hospitals to find out the cost of interpreters. Airedale hospital reported that last year the cost was almost £200,000 and I suspect that, when I receive an answer, it will be even higher at Bradford royal infirmary. This money could be better spent on patient care. Surely it is better for these patients, if they want to contribute to the British way of life, to be able to speak English themselves. What is the Minister’s Department doing with other Government Departments to make sure that people who live in this country can speak English so that money for the NHS goes to the purposes for which it was intended?

George Freeman

Let me gently and respectfully point out that those who work in the NHS and the leaders responsible for it have made it very clear how dependent it is on people who come to work here in the NHS from overseas. Under the terms of our own mandate and indeed our own laws, the NHS has a duty to make sure that it provides proper diagnosis and treatment for all our citizens. For public health and safety, it is in nobody’s interests for citizens of the UK not to be able to integrate, deal with and get proper diagnosis from the system. My hon. Friend’s wider points about the speaking of English are well made, but they are not relevant to this particular question.

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Forward Budget Planning

14. What steps he is taking to ensure that forward budget planning in his Department is robust. [905666]

In the autumn statement and the Budget the Government fully funded NHS England’s five year forward view. We have committed to an extra £10 billion in-year by the end of this Parliament. Furthermore, we have frontloaded it, as we were asked to do by NHS England, with £6 billion extra by the end of 2016-17 with an extra £4 billion for technology funding.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Having published reports on seven areas of the Department’s work since January, members of the Public Accounts Committee, of whom I am one, were looking forward to the publication of the annual accounts with some anticipation. It is becoming clear that Brexit’s impact on staffing, procurement and medicines will be huge, so what is the Minister doing to assess and mitigate the risk to the 2016-17 budget and will this be made clear in this year’s published accounts?

May I first make it clear, as the Prime Minister has done, that nothing immediately changes? We are still full voting-right members of the European Union, and nobody in the system needs to worry about any immediate changes. The Government are putting together a plan for handling the negotiations that now need to be taken forward, and for my own part I as a Minister in the Department have convened a workforce to look at the issues around medicines access. There are three things we need to do: first, to reassure people that this country has a very strong life science and healthcare research system and economy; secondly, to make sure that we negotiate our new relationship with the EU in a way that works; and thirdly, to take advantage of the regulatory freedoms that we now have to make sure that this country is the very best country in the world in which to develop those innovations.


Topical Questions

T7. To expand on the question asked by the shadow Secretary of State, I too would like to raise the case of my constituent Abi Longfellow who suffers from dense deposit disease and is awaiting a decision by the NHS’s specialised commissioning body. She and her family have been subjected to frequent delays and miscommunications. I first met Health Ministers, NICE and NHS England a year ago to discuss Abi’s situation. What steps will the Government take to ensure that decisions on treatments such as this are taken in a timely fashion and that families are kept updated on the progress of those decisions? [905650]

My hon. Friend raises an important point. NHS England is currently unable to take final decisions on this year’s new treatments, including this particular drug, until the courts have decided whether pre-exposure prophylaxis HIV prevention should compete with other candidate drugs. She makes an important point about timeliness, and that is why I am leading an accelerated access review to speed up the way in which such decisions are taken.

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T6. The cancer drugs fund is due to be handed back to NICE later this month. In May, 15 leading UK cancer charities published an open letter detailing their concern that that would see patients missing out on clinically proven cancer drugs because the NICE system is outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Will the Secretary of State agree to carry out a wide-ranging review of NICE’s health technology appraisal process for cancer drugs to ensure that all cancer patients can access the drugs they need? [905649]

I am delighted to assure the hon. Lady that as part of the accelerated access review, we are considering how we can ensure that the £1 billion commitment to the cancer drugs fund is used to accelerate through the most effective treatments, and, through the new system that NHS England is putting in place, to make sure that patients get access to better drugs more quickly.

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Happy 68th birthday to the NHS and thank you to its creator, Labour’s Aneurin Bevan.

According to research by the British Lung Foundation, the mortality rates for lung disease have not improved over the past 10 years. Will the Secretary of State take a lesson from the Welsh Government, which have put in place a specific strategy and delivery plan to tackle the issue?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), opened an exhibition on this topic yesterday and that the Chancellor recently put an extra £5 million into mesothelioma research. Through the National Institute for Health Research, the Government are committing to invest in that disease area. We are also committed to ensuring that we drive up both research and better treatment for such diseases.

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