HC Deb 10 May 1988 vol 133 cc133-4
3. Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services when he last met the chairman of the West Midlands regional health authority; and what subjects were discussed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mrs. Edwina Currie)

My right hon. Friend last met the chairman of the West Midlands regional health authority on 22 March. I have had the pleasure of meeting him three times since January. A number of issues were discussed, including expenditure on health services in the west midlands, which now stands at a whopping £1.2 billion, an increase of some 34 per cent. in real terms since 1978–79.

Mr. Coombs

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the increase of 30 per cent. since 1979 has led to a large increase in medical staff and to an increase of 24 per cent. in in-patients being treated within the region? Will she also confirm that the districts within the regional health authority have set up their own version of the Government's resource management initiative to allow resources to be allocated not only on the basis of perceived need but to those districts which, like my own, use them most efficiently?

Mrs. Currie

The West Midlands regional health authority is doing a cracking good job. Last year it admitted 700,000 in-patients—13,500 per week. It dealt with nearly 4 million out-patient visits last year—12,400 each working day. Many people have reason to be satisfied with the NHS in the west midlands.

Mr. Rooker

Will the Under-Secretry of State check her diary and confirm that she was not present at the meeting on 22 March between the Secretary of State and the chairman of the regional health authority? I was, along with some of my hon. Friends, and we were given to understand that we would be informed of the cuts that were due to take place in this financial year before they took place in known areas, at the instigation of the chairman and with the agreement of the Secretary of State. We are still waiting for that information.

Mrs. Currie

I am sure that my right hon. Friend enjoyed the meeting that he had with the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman misheard me. I said that expenditure on the west midlands health services now stands at £1.2billion, which is a record in both cash and real terms. The authority is employing a record number of staff, it has a record hospital building programme, and it is looking after a record number of patients.

Dame Jill Knight

At meetings with the chairman, did my hon. Friend discuss waiting lists in the west midlands, which are worrying many people? Has she any news to give to the House on that matter?

Mrs. Currie

Yes. Again, the west midlands has been making considerable progress. The latest figures that we have, for the summer quarter ending September 1987, show that waiting lists had dropped by 6 per cent. in six months, that 42,000 people had been treated from the waiting list, and that the median wait was only six weeks, and falling.