NHS to be placed at the heart of Queen's Speech as PM pays tribute to staff working Christmas

Posted On: 
18th December 2019

A bill guaranteeing a multi-billion cash boost for the NHS will be the first piece of domestic legislation introduced by the new Government.

This will be the first time such a spending commitment has been enshrined in law.
Credit: 
PA

The bill, which will be set out in the Queen’s Speech on Thursday, will make it illegal for ministers not to provide the health service with an extra £33.9 billion a year by 2023/24.

It will be introduced to Parliament once the Withdrawal Agreement Bill confirming the UK's departure from the EU on 31 January has been passed by MPs.

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New immigration rules will mean qualified doctors, nurses and health professionals with a job offer from the NHS will be offered fast-track visas, while the Government will also pledge to make it easier for hospitals to manufacture and trial innovative medicines.

A new independent body will also improve patient safety by investigating concerns and incidents raised by patients and families, and hospital car parking charges will be abolished for disabled people, the parents of sick children staying overnight, and staff working night shifts.

In addition, bursaries worth at least £5,000 will be brought back for nursing students, while the Queen’s Speech will also confirm an additional £1 billion a year for social care.

Speaking at a Downing Street reception for NHS staff, Boris Johnson said: "The NHS is the single greatest institution in this country and it’s absolutely vital that we as political leaders, all kinds and all levels, understand what is going on in the NHS. You are doing an incredible job.

"But the pressures and demands are enormous and we have to help you cope with that. We have to invest and as you may have heard in the last few weeks, we are. We are upgrading hospitals, and building new hospitals.

"We are going to have 50,000 more nurses. We retain 19,000 who would otherwise vanish, and recruit another 31,000. We have 6,000 more GPs and 50 million more GP appointments over the next five years.

"We are now putting the biggest investment in the NHS in living memory. We have to keep that investment going. We have to keep supporting you. I would like to thank you for everything you do.

"We now have got Christmas, and you, the NHS, are going to have to keep working over what will be one of the busiest and most taxing times of the year for the NHS. This is an opportunity for us in government to welcome you to Number 10 and to wish you a Happy Christmas."

Responding to the plan, Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: "We will study the legislation they are putting forward but the commitments from their election manifesto fall far short of what is needed to end record waiting times and staff shortages.
 
“If the Conservatives’ plans to put funding increases into law is to be anything other than an empty gimmick, we would urge them to pledge the extra £6 billion a year which experts say is needed to start to make up the cuts they've imposed for a decade, and to put the necessary funding into public health and social care.

“This government will be judged on its handling of the NHS and its ability to put right their disastrous handling of our country's most important institution over the past decade.”

Other measures set to be in the Queen's Speech include plans to increase per pupil funding in state schools, increase sentences for terrorists, make it easier for the police to stop and search known knife carriers and stop vexatious claims against Armed Forces members.