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Editor's blog Wednesday 8 June 2011: Text of today's PMQs

Today's Prime Minister's Questions - text courtesy of Hansard. 8 June 2011

Edward Miliband: Why has he made such a mess of his health plans?

The Prime Minister: Yes, we are having a review of the plans that we announced on health: we want to get them right. I have to say again that there has been widespread support for the review of our health plans, not least from the man sitting four down from the right hon. Gentleman, the shadow Health Secretary—I know I often quote him—who said that
“looking at the evidence of what works, listening hard to those who know the NHS and learning from the views they get…is not rocket science. It’s simply good government”.
What the right hon. Gentleman calls a shambles, his shadow Health Secretary calls good government. The right hon. Gentleman is not really in command of the ship.

Edward Miliband: I asked the Prime Minister why he had made such a mess of his health proposals. The first reason he made such a mess of his health proposals is the promises he made before the election. We all remember the Prime Minister touring round the country promising no more top-down reorganisations. A year before the election, he told the Royal College of Nursing: “There will be no more of those pointless top-down reorganisations that aim for change and instead bring chaos”. Why did he say that?

The Prime Minister: What the Royal College of Nursing said yesterday was a welcome for the speech that I made. The reason that we are able to improve the NHS is not only that we are committed to reform, but that we are also committed to more funding. The Labour party is in favour of cutting funding to the NHS. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to look at what is happening in the NHS, Wales is now only one part of the country that is controlled by Labour and there waiting lists are massively up and health spending is being cut. That is what Labour would do to the NHS.

Edward Miliband: I will tell the Prime Minister why he made promises that he then broke—because he is completely shameless and he will say anything. The second reason he has made a mess of the health service is because he did not think the policy through. Last June, he ordered the NHS to stop enforcing Labour’s 18-week waiting time target. As a result, the number of patients waiting more than 18 weeks has gone up by 69%. Why did he scrap the instruction to enforce the waiting time target?

The Prime Minister: The best that can be said about this performance is that—quite rightly—the right hon. Gentleman was not thinking about politics on his honeymoon. On waiting times, what actually matters is the time people wait and median waiting times are down. That is what has happened in the NHS, and that is something that he misled the House of Commons about a fortnight ago—

Mr Speaker: Order. I know that the Prime Minister will be a follower of parliamentary protocol, and he will not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition misled the House of Commons. I am sure that he will withdraw that remark.

The Prime Minister: What I meant was that the right hon. Gentleman gave an interesting use of facts on waiting times, which are down in the NHS. What we are seeing today is simply empty opposition and weak leadership. That is what we get from Labour.

Edward Miliband: The whole House will note that the Prime Minister did not withdraw his remark. He is obviously rattled over the health service. It is no wonder he is rattled, because he is making a complete mess of it, and everybody up and down the country knows it. What is the most important reason he is making a mess of the health service? However much he says he loves the NHS, and however many times he says it, the truth is that he has the wrong values. He wanted to put a free market free-for-all at the centre of our health service, and any changes he makes now are not because he wants to make them, but because he has been found out. We know all we need to know about this Prime Minister from what he has done on the NHS: he breaks his promises; he does not think things through; he is reckless; and he has got the wrong values. I will hand it to him though. After one year, he has proved the oldest truth in politics: you can’t trust the Tories on the NHS.

The Prime Minister: This side of the House will not take lectures from a party that, when in government, gave £250 million to private sector companies for doing nothing. That is what happened. What we have heard today is just a series of bandwagons, and anyone who is watching this knows that it is this Government who are boldly making reforms in the public sector; who are dealing with the deficit; and who are reforming welfare, and what do we get from the Labour party? Where is the right hon. Gentleman’s plan for the NHS? There is not one. Where is his plan for reforming welfare? Nothing. Where is his plan for higher education? Nothing. All we get is empty opposition and weak leadership, and the country can see it.

Mr Virendra Sharma (Ealing, Southall) (Lab): I love the NHS and I love my local hospital, Ealing hospital. I was delighted to learn that the Prime Minister also thinks highly of Ealing hospital, and that he chose it as the place in which to deliver his speech on the Government’s NHS reforms. Given his personal experience of the high quality of services that Ealing hospital provides, will he assure the House that, faced with budget pressures and merger proposals, it will not close or lose its accident and emergency and other key services?

The Prime Minister: I enjoyed my visit to Ealing hospital, and was impressed by what I saw. There are no plans to close the hospital. Indeed, a new urgent care centre is due to open in July, and the maternity unit has a phased redevelopment programme in process.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, any proposals relating to any hospital must go through a proper process involving public and patient engagement, sound clinical evidence, support by the GP commissioners, and support for patient choice. That is the process that must be followed. As I have said, however, there are no plans to close the hospital.

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware that one in seven couples in the United Kingdom suffer from infertility problems, but, notwithstanding that fact, three quarters of primary care trusts do not provide the recommended three cycles of IVF treatment. Will the Prime Minister join me in calling on all PCTs to follow the NICE guidelines and provide sufficient treatment for infertile couples?

The Prime Minister: I will certainly do that. My hon. Friend is right to raise an issue that affects a huge number of people in our country. We have all encountered constituency cases in which people are frustrated by local guidelines. The deputy chief executive of the NHS is writing to all primary care trusts reminding them of the NICE guidance and its recommendations, and I think that that is very important. Of course some PCTs have worse deficits than others and have a more difficult process to follow, but we want to ensure that everyone has access to this treatment.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): After four years, 15-year-old Alice Pyne, who lives in my constituency, is losing her battle against cancer. She has posted online her “bucket list”, a simple wish list of things that she wants to do before it is too late. She wants to meet Take That, to own a purple iPod and to enter her dog in a labrador show, but at the top of the list is a call for everyone to sign up to be a bone marrow donor. Will the Prime Minister work with the Leader of the Opposition and me to find out why too few people are currently on that life-saving register?

The Prime Minister: I will certainly do that. I am very sorry to hear about the situation facing Alice and what she is going through. Our thoughts go out to her and to her parents. She sounds like a very brave and very admirable person.
We want to get as many people as possible on to the bone marrow register. This year we are investing some £4 million of new money to improve donation processing and services for NHS patients. However, this is partly to do with a cultural and population change that we must help to drive, and I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition and I can discuss that.

Mr Stephen Dorrell (Charnwood) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the key challenge facing the national health service is how to convert this Government’s welcome commitment to year-on-year growth of real resources into improving productivity and improving quality of care for patients? Did the key to delivering that not lie in my right hon. Friend’s speech yesterday: in his advocacy of more integrated and less fragmented care? Will he continue to—

Mr Speaker: Order. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman—I think we have got the thrust of it.

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend’s support for the reforms is hugely welcome, and I know that he follows these issues very closely. It was not just he who welcomed the speech that I set out yesterday: also, I had express support from the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Physicians, the NHS Confederation, Macmillan Cancer Support and Breakthrough Breast Cancer. I think we are seeing a coming together of people who care about the health service, who use the health service, of professional bodies in the health service, who can see that this Government are listening, getting their changes right and will add the money that is required—and that only we are committed to—with the reforms that are necessary to make sure the NHS can go on and thrive in future.