HC Deb 15 January 1985 vol 71 cc176-7
8. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make additional resources available to improve the health education services; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. John Patten)

Since 1979–80 the Government have increased funding of the Health Education Council from £4.5 million in that year to £9.1 million in the current financial year. This is an increase of 39 per cent. in real terms. The council's funding for 1985–86 is currently under consideration.

Individual health authorities determine the resources to be made available in their districts for local health education. We have been encouraged by the substantial increase in the number of health education officers employed by the NHS in recent years.

Mr. Dormand

Despite what the Minister says, when will the Government take health education seriously? The Minister knows that, despite what he said, there is no successful continuing health education service. Will he have new consultations with the British Medical Association, the Health Education Council and health education officers in order to provide a better service? Does he agree that a net saving could be made in the Health Service if we had an efficient health education service?

Mr. Patten

Uncharacteristically, the hon. Gentleman has ignored my answer and has completely ignored what is happening in health education in the regions and districts. In most regional health authorities, health education is part of the regional strategic plan, and almost every district health authority has a health education officer. Great steps have been made by the Government's preventive policies, and more has been achieved on preventive medicine by this Government than by any other.

Mr. Coombs

Is my hon. Friend aware of the Tesco initiative on food labelling that was announced last week, and does he welcome it? Does he recognise that the need for health education is made even greater if there is to be a proliferation of such initiatives, leading perhaps to extra confusion for the consumer?

Mr. Patten

Food manufacturers recognise the public concern for greater knowledge about the contents of the food that they eat, and the demand for better food labelling. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is consulting the food industry on this important matter, so that he can draw up guidelines which will be easily understood by the consumer and which will not lead to the confusion to which my hon. Friend referred.