HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc307-8
1. Mr. Graham

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what allowance was made for inflation and growth, respectively, in his provisional allocation of resources to Scottish health boards for 1988–89.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

The provision for expenditure by health boards on hospital and community health services in 1988–89 is 5.8 per cent. over the corresponding provision for last year, which includes an allowance for inflation of 4.5 per cent. and for growth of 1.3 per cent.

Mr. Graham

Does the Minister sincerely believe that the figure for growth that we have—0.5 per cent.—is sufficient to meet the needs of the Scottish health boards, in whose areas thousands of people are waiting for treatment on the National Health Service?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman obviously prepared his supplementary question before listening to my answer. The figure for growth for health boards this year is 1.3 per cent. The hon. Gentleman should be aware that health boards have never been better funded in real terms than under this Government, having had an increase in funding of more than a quarter since 1979.

Sir Hector Monro

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in cash terms, we are spending more than double what was spent in 1978–79, which followed a period when there had been cuts in building and resources for the Health Service under the Labour Government? Is it not a real demonstration of the Government's concern for the Health Service and for caring that we are spending so much more?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is right. The only cuts in the Health Service in the past 20 years were made under the Labour Government, who were forced to cut the capital building programme. My hon. Friend is right to point to our record. Not only are we spending more, but we are getting more value for the money spent in the Health Service.

Mr. Galbraith

The Minister must be aware that the actual figure for next year's increase as against the previous outcome is only 0.5 per cent. He will also know that that level is barely enough to cope with demographic demand, let alone to improve the Health Service. Because of the chronic and continuing under-funding by the Government hospitals such as the Elsie Inglis in Edinburgh will have to close, and as a result patients' choice will be diminished.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is also a problem with the nurses' pay award? The Government have allocated £92 million, butt the health boards have told me that they think the figure will be more because of regrading. If it is, will he assure the House that the Government will provide the extra funds?

Mr. Forsyth

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the Dispatch Box. When he has had the opportunity to do his homework he will realise that the cash uplift is about 4 per cent. for all boards in Scotards in Scotland. The overall cash uplift is 5.8 per cent. The 4 per cent. goes to all boards, plus an additional I per cent. which is being redistributed on the SHARE formula. In addition, there is a further £12 million that has not yet been distributed to health boards, so it is premature to pronounce on their allocations.

I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome an increase in nurses' pay that will result in their having a real increase of 44 per cent., as opposed to a reduction of 20 per cent. under the Labour Government. The Government have made it clear that we shall fully fund the pay awards over the 4.5 per cent. which has been allowed for inflation.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing

Given the widespread interest in Scotland in the recommendations of the Griffiths report, is the Minister satisfied that within the small increase in the budget for health boards it will be possible for the boards to implement many of those recommendations?

Mr. Forsyth

We are giving careful consideration to the Griffiths report, which involves funding not just by health boards but by local authorities. We have made substantial increases in funding for health boards and social works depts of local authorities, and we shall certainly consider the recommendations carefully. Resources are not the problem. We must address ourselves to joint planning and organisation.

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