HC Deb 03 February 1981 vol 998 cc138-9
11. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will introduce measures to encourage the membership of private health insurance schemes.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

The Government aim to encourage the development of independent health care as a worthwhile contribution to meeting the health needs of the nation. Recent figures suggest that we are succeeding.

Mr. Atkinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last year private patients saved the taxpayer £86 million? Is he now in a position to accept the recommendation contained in the report commissioned by his Department to the effect that a study be made of the reasons why so many individuals, firms and trade unions are opting for private care?

Mr. Jenkin

I am not in a position to confirm or deny the figures given by my hon. Friend. It is clear that a large number of people recognise the sense of making private provision for health care including, as my hon. Friend mentioned, a number of trade unions. In recent opinion poll, when trade union members were asked whether they would accept private health insurance as part of their employment package, two-thirds said that they would be happy to accept such an offer if it were made.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does not the Secretary of State accept that the old, the chronically sick and the disabled are the very people who will not be accepted by private insurance schemes? In so far as the Government intend to finance the NHS basically by private insurance, does he realise that that will be a fundamental destruction of the Christian principles on which the NHS is based?

Mr. Jenkin

The hon. Gentleman persists in missing the point. If private insurance and private care can relieve the NHS of some part of acute in-patient care, that leaves more resources for the NHS to spend on those who do not have private care, which includes the Cinderella services for the elderly and the handicapped. That must be true.

Mr. Michael Brown

Will my right hon. Friend indicate the implications for NHS hospital waiting lists if there were no private health care schemes available?

Mr. Jenkin

My hon. Friend is right. For non-urgent operations such as orthopaedic operations, hip transplants and so on, if there were no private beds and no private hospitals, inevitably NHS waiting lists would be much longer.

Miss Joan Lestor

Is the Secretary of State seriously suggestion that robbing the NHS of consultants and other personnel, trained by the taxpayer in Britain, does not diminish the services of the NHS? Is he not aware, for example, that the use of the Princess Margaret hospital in my area to beckon people from America for private care is having a detrimental effect upon the NHS services?

Mr. Jenkin

Private insurance and private health care bring more resources to the health needs of the nation—money that would not otherwise be spent—and, therefore, allow the employment of more consultants and more nurses in the NHS. The Opposition persist in playing a zero sum game. It is not the case. It brings extra resources to health care.

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