HC Deb 28 February 1984 vol 55 cc123-5
5. Mr. Gerald Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what progress has been made on the implementation of the Griffiths report.

10. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has now decided how he intends to implement the Griffiths report; if he can now announce a timetable which he aims to complete; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Social Services (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I have established the Health Services Supervisory Board and started the process of setting up the NHS management board. I have consulted health authorities and professional bodies on the recommendations for implementation at regional and district level and am considering their comments.

Mr. Bowden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are many areas within the Health Service, for example, the administrative and ancillary services, where great savings could be made, thereby making available scarce resources for patient care and acute medical services?

Mr. Fowler

I am sure that that is right. One of the points made in the Griffiths report was that cost improvement programmes could and should be carried out. I am sure that the point made by my hon. Friend is important, and one of which all health authorities should take note.

Mr. Pavitt

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken cognisance of the recommendation made to him by the Royal College of Nursing? Is he still going to appoint a chief nursing officer? Is he aware that a third reorganisation would be dangerous for the morale of the service and that it would be far better to defer it until further consultations have taken place?

Mr. Fowler

I do not accept the second part of what the hon. Gentleman said. As to the first part, we are considering the appointment of a chief nursing officer, and I shall make an announcement about it in due course. The Griffiths proposals are not a reorganisation in the sense of new tiers and new staff. We want to see a reduction of staff in the Department. I should have thought that most people would want to see Health Service management improved, and that is what we are trying to do.

Sir William Clark

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons why the Health Service is so inefficient is that for some years we have had what is known as consensus management? Does he agree that in any organisation consensus management must lead to inefficiency, and that it is high time we returned to the old-fashioned method of having one person in charge of a hospital?

Mr. Fowler

The management process in the Health Service could be substantially improved. That is what the Griffiths report is all about. I am sure that both sides of the House would agree that if the management process is improved, as suggested in Griffiths, the savings and gains in efficiency will be such as any sensible person would welcome.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the concern of the National Health Service is with medical treatment, nursing care and rehabilitation, rather than with administrative fiddling?

Mr. Fowler

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, what is important is the management of resources to provide the best possible care for patients. That is what good management is about; It is time that the hon. Gentleman read the report and gave some support to the process that we are carrying out.

Dr. Mawhinney

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is still a great need within the Health Service for clear decision-making processes and accountability, and that whatever arrangements may be based on the Griffiths report that need must be paramount? Does my right hon. Friend further accept that the regions and districts welcome his commitment—consequent on the Griffiths report—to reduce staff in his Department?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend has said. We have reduced the number of staff dealing with health at the DHSS headquarters by about 20 per cent. in the past four years. I hope that similar improvements will be made elsewhere in the Health Service.

Mrs. Renée Short

The Select Committee was immensely grateful to the Secretary of State for saying that he would be willing to postpone any further action on the Griffiths proposals until after the Select Committee's report had been received and there had been an opportunity to debate it in the House. I am sure that Conservative Members will be interested to hear that. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will ask for Government time to debate the Committee's report?

Mr. Fowler

I can give no commitment about a debate in the House. I made that clear in my evidence to the Select Committee. I cannot give an open commitment but, provided that the hon. Lady's Committee's report appears in the next few weeks, we will want to take that into account, because we regard the Committee and its findings as important in the consultation process.