I believe Caroline Lucas MP's proposed Bill, which recently failed to make it past its Second Reading, would have been an unnecessary upheaval and the wrong approach to improving the NHS. You may be interested to know that an authoritative comparative study of the performance of different national health systems recently concluded that the NHS is the best health service in the world.
This is a ringing endorsement of the Government's decision to modernise the NHS, ensuring more money was spent on patient care not administration, and to invest over £7 billion extra funding in real terms in the health service during the last Parliament. There are now 1.3 million more operations being delivered each year compared to 2010, 10,700 more doctors and almost 11,800 more nurses. I am also proud that the Prime Minister has promised to increase investment in this Parliament with over £10 billion of additional NHS spending in real terms per annum by 2020/21. This will mean spending on the NHS will rise in every year in real-terms.
In my view, giving operational control for the day-to-day running of services to doctors was the right decision as they have the best understanding of their patients and local needs. Nonetheless the Government has always been clear that Ministers are responsible for the NHS, and I am proud of its performance in challenging circumstances.
On the wider issue of private sector involvement in the NHS, I know that the Government believes in the NHS and its values. It has always been clear that it is committed to protecting the NHS and that is why it has increased NHS spending and guaranteed that it will always provide treatment free, regardless of ability to pay. The Government will not privatise the NHS.
The use of private providers in the delivery of NHS services is not a new concept. The Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 introduced the independent sector and competition into the NHS. The NHS and the independent sector have worked in partnership for many years, to provide good quality care to patients, which is the most important priority.
You may find it of interest to know that the use of private providers in the NHS represent around six pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of just one penny in the pound since 2010. Charities and social enterprises, such as Macmillan Nurses play an important role in the NHS, as they have done for many years.
What the Government's health reforms actually do is provide the framework to enable patients to be treated by the providers best able to meet their needs and give patients greater individual choice and control over their care. I think that it is right for local doctors and nurses to decide who provides the best care for patients.
The NHS is something to be valued and protected which is why I support the Government's commitment to increase NHS spending in England by an additional £10 billion in real terms by 2020/21. This will enable the NHS to implement its own plan for the future to further improve health care in the Five Year Forward View.
I also support the Government's commitment to increase NHS spending in England by £10 billion in real terms by 2020/21, of which £6 billion will be delivered by the end of 2016/17. This will allow the NHS to offer 800,000 operations and treatments and spend up to £2 billion more on new drugs. It will also ensure that by 2020, everyone will be able to access GP services at evenings and weekends. This will enable the NHS to fund its own plan for the future, the Five Year Forward View.
I trust this clarifies the Government's position that competition in the NHS should act as a means to an end in improving services for patients, never as an end in itself.