HC Deb 28 April 1998 vol 311 cc142-4
14. Mr. Vernon Coaker (Gedling)

What action he proposes to improve consultation with staff within the NHS. [38687]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

We have made clear our commitment to involve national health service staff in decisions about how the NHS is run. We have set up a task force to identify and explore new approaches to staff involvement, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to every individual working in the NHS, seeking his or hser views on examples of what has or has not been shown to work in practice.

Mr. Coaker

Does my hon. Friend agree that consultation with staff in the NHS is vital if we are to rebuild the NHS and get the NHS that we want? With reference to the task force that the Government have set up to consult staff, is it not significant that it includes not only senior managers and doctors, but porters, so that the forgotten army of the NHS is represented and can express an opinion on the future development of the NHS?

Mr. Boateng

We have made clear our intention that the 13-strong panel that has been set up as the task force should include porters, nurses, doctors, managers, a national union officer and representatives from outside the industry, all of whom are making a valuable contribution to the work of the task force. It is a matter of recognising the skills that exist in the NHS and using them.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

When the Minister next consults NHS staff, what estimate will he give of the size of waiting lists this time next year?

Mr. Boateng

We need no lessons from Conservative Members about consulting NHS staff. As they know, we see NHS staff as our greatest asset—one that they wasted when they had the opportunity to use it.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Will the Minister ensure that in consulting NHS staff, some attention is paid to finding out their views and opinions on issues affecting black and ethnic minorities? After the second world war, women of Afro-Caribbean descent played an important role in building up the NHS. In my view, their contribution has never been sufficiently recognised.

Mr. Boateng

My hon. Friend has shown considerable commitment to ensuring that the contribution of Afro-Caribbean and Asian men and women to the NHS is recognised, and we shall celebrate it in the course of this 50th anniversary year. I was pleased to have the opportunity of visiting, with my hon. Friend, a hospital in her constituency, showing that the Government consult all staff and recognise the manifold contribution of all those who, over the years, have built the NHS into something we should be proud of and something that Labour Members are determined to protect.