I am aware that A&E targets were missed in a number of areas of the country in December. As such, I support steps being taken by the Government and the NHS to recruit 50,000 more nurses, 6,000 new GPs, and 6,000 more primary care professionals in addition to the 7,500 further nurse associates and 20,000 primary care professionals announced previously. I also welcome the commitment to upgrade 20 existing hospitals and build 40 new ones across the country. This will provide much needed space and infrastructure, and will help to reduce the burden on current staff and facilities.
On the question of the NHS. the Prime Minister recently announced the Government’s intention to provide the NHS with an additional £33.9 billion by 2023/24. This is the largest, longest funding settlement in the history of the NHS. This landmark investment to help secure the long-term future of our NHS is extremely welcome, and I hope you agree it demonstrates the Government’s commitment to properly funding our NHS and public services: health is the Government's top priority.
The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) laid out how this funding will be invested, with a focus on primary, community and mental health services, helping to deliver prevention and to manage demand. For example, all smokers who visit hospital will be offered access to an NHS smoking cessation programme, and better integrated local care will help to support patients to make healthy choices to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These preventative measures will help to reduce the number of people in need of secondary care services, and will enable better access for patients in urgent need.
Alongside this, the NHS was asked to undertake a clinical review of standards relating to waiting times. This must be clinically led to enable the best, and safest, delivery of care for patients. I understand that NHS England has now prepared proposals, covering waiting times across the service, including mental health, cancer, and A&E.
The Government will now carefully consider the proposals before taking any steps. In the meantime we will continue to hold the NHS to account on its existing standards.