HC Deb 27 November 1984 vol 68 cc764-5
4. Mr. Sumberg

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the level of Government support for the National Health Service in the next financial year.

Mr. Fowler

As I recently announced, the Government plan to spend next year a total of £17 billion on the National Health Service in Great Britain. This represents an increase of £700 million on the anticipated expenditure for 1984–85 and is £200 million more than that previously announced in the 1984 expenditure White Paper. The funds allocated to health authorities will be increased by 1 per cent. over and above what would be required merely to keep pace with the forecast rate of inflation. These figures demonstrate the reality of the Government's continuing commitment to the Health Service.

Mr. Sumberg

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that there is increasing public concern that the NHS does not have sufficient funds and resources to combat and publicise the danger of patients contracting AIDS as a result of blood transfusions? If that is so, will he assure the House that sufficient funds and resources will be made available to the NHS?

Mr. Fowler

Yes, I think that I can give that assurance. The Government are taking a number of actions. We are seeking to become self-sufficient in Factor 8 so that imports are no longer required. I very much hope that that will be done by 1986. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health has issued leaflets. Perhaps, most important of all, we are seeking ways to test blood donations. No screening test has yet been developed, but a pilot trial will be started in London in the next few weeks.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

However much the Minister may seek to mislead the House and the country with statistics, does he agree that his statistics presume a pay increase of only 3 per cent. for nurses and ancillary staff? Does he admit, therefore, that, despite all the Government's protestations, those people have suffered, are suffering and will continue to suffer a substantial reduction in their standard of living?

Mr. Fowler

Untypically, the hon. Gentleman's remarks are not a fair commentary on our plans. We are providing an extra £700 million cash in Great Britain. If pay is settled at the 3 per cent. which the Government think reasonable, there will be 2 per cent. cash left for growth within the Health Service. Health authorities have cash budgets and they must plan within them. In that respect, there is no difference between the Health Service and any other service or industry.

Mrs. Jill Knight

When issuing statements and information documents about these important matters, will my right hon. Friend avoid using phrases, such as "relative technical limitations of the input volume methodology", which confuse rather than clarify and hamper the excellent story which the Government have to tell about their record in the Health Service?

Mr. Fowler

I can give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance on that. To the best of my knowledge, I have never issued anything remotely similar to that in my name, and I shall certainly see to it that none of my ministerial team does so either.

Mr. Eastham

The Minister insists on giving percentage figures. Do those assessments include the ever-increasing number of pensioners, which is currently growing by about 100,000 per year, thus adding considerably to the burden on the Health Service?

Mr. Fowler

Of course, we accept that, and that is why we are providing more cash for the Health Service. It is no use the hon. Gentleman making dismissive gestures. We are providing 5.5 per cent. more cash for the Health Service next year than was provided this year. One of our main reasons for doing that is the very argument which the hon. Gentleman put forward. His comments signally fail to undermine the Government's commitment to the Health Service.

Mr. McCrindle

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that although his proposals on generic prescribing will save the NHS money, there is no doubt about the efficacy of the alternative drugs and that those who have suggested that we are moving towards having one Health Service for the rich and another for the poor are guilty of mischievous nonsense?

Mr. Fowler

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Although there is some laughter on the Opposition Benches, I had thought that that was the policy of the Opposition, too.

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