Andrea speaks in NHS debate

Andrea was pleased to be called to speak in a debate that was called after a petition calling for a motion of no confidence in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recieved over 220,000 signatures.

Andrea has worked with Jeremy since her election and wanted to share her experiences both working with him and the wider health service.

You can read the full speech below.

Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con): Thank you, Madam Chairman. I will be brief, but I wanted to make a few points that I feel are important. I am speaking in this debate because I truly support the NHS. I have worked in it for the past four years, through the charity sector, and my sister also works in it. The NHS is a vital national institution, and we must protect it and make sure that it is secure for the next generation. However, that does not mean that it is constituted in a way that is perfect. There are many flaws, which must be addressed to ensure that the service is in step with people’s lives in this rapidly changing world.

With more medical innovation comes more advanced treatment. Diseases that 20 years ago might have been a death sentence can now be easily treated, but only if we can provide people with the care that they need, when they need it. Patients should not be worried about going into hospital on a weekend, thinking they might not be able to see a consultant to diagnose their complaint. That is why I fully support the Government’s plans for a truly seven-day NHS.

Let us not forget that the recommendations come from independent bodies that have reviewed the pay and conditions of senior managers in the NHS. The recommendations would bring about real change and ensure that people could access the treatment they needed, when they needed it. It is about ensuring that key decision-making staff are there to support people when they most need it. That will ensure that we start to treat people as soon as possible after their diagnosis. There should be no situation where consultants can demand extremely high fees to provide a service to patients out of hours. Other key public sector workers cannot do that.

The change is only possible through the Government’s investment of £10 billion in the NHS, and through the determination to ensure that the NHS provides the best possible services to patients and reassurance to families whose loved ones are unwell, and ensures better outcomes for all. The hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) mentioned the demoralisation of NHS staff. Trials of seven-day services have already taken place in such hospitals as Salford and Northumbria, and according to the Government’s statistics, those hospitals have increased patient care and staff morale.

I briefly turn to the substance of the petition that led to the debate. For the past four years, I have worked on health issues. Since I have been elected, I have become a member of the Health Committee and have set up an all-party group on patient safety. The Health Secretary has been attacked, with calls for a vote of no confidence, but since I have been elected, he has been absolutely fantastic. Throughout the work I have done, not only on the Health Committee, but in setting up the all-party group, he has been there to support me with help and guidance. I am planning a major national campaign on hand washing, and he has met with charity representatives. He is a person to lead our NHS. Every time I speak with him, I am hugely impressed by his compassion, knowledge and drive to make real improvements to the service and the lives of those who work in it. I have no doubt that he is the right man to drive through improvements to the health service, and I have every faith that he, as much as anyone else, wants to improve the NHS, to work closely with the staff and to ensure that the changes to how they work are well received and appropriate to their needs.

I return to the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Warrington North. She accused the Secretary of State of attacking NHS staff. She has said that the NHS is under threat from this Government. During the election campaign, Labour tried to weaponise the NHS, and she has continued that agenda today. The debate should, however, include a view of the NHS under Labour’s tenure. If we are looking at staff costs, we should look at the massive increase in agency costs that began under the last Labour Government. From 2007 to 2009, spending on agency staff increased by 60% and continued to rise in the five years of the previous Government because of the shackles placed on contracts by Labour. That situation is being addressed by the Secretary of State, with caps on costs for agency staff bringing down costs for trusts.

While Labour is busy weaponising the NHS, the Secretary of State is trying to undo the damage done to the service under Labour.

My experience of the NHS has not always been good. Sometimes it has been fantastic; other times it has been not so great, such as when I lost my father to a hospital-acquired infection. I am encouraged by the work that is being done on improvements.