HC Deb 21 March 1989 vol 149 cc903-4
13. Mr. Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of the gross domestic product was spent on the National Health Service in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what was the percentage in 1978.

Mr. Mellor

In 1987, 5.4 per cent. of the United Kingdom's gross domestic product was spent on the National Health Service compared with 4.8 per cent. in 1978.

Mr. Knox

Does my hon. and learned Friend think that these figures show up the different priorities that Conservative and Labour Governments attach to the National Health Service?

Mr. Mellor

They do, because not only has there been an increase of 40 per cent. in real terms in revenue spending on the NHS—double the rate under Labour—but an increase in the capital spend, which was slashed to the bone under Labour. Above all, there is a growing national wealth of which health is getting a larger slice. Since the foundation of the NHS, no Government's record can compare with that.

Mr. Haynes

We have another Minister bragging at the Dispatch Box. Is he aware that I opened a health fair in my constituency last Friday and that I was told in no uncertain terms that more resources were needed? There is £14 billion in the bucket so the Minister should put his hand in and get some out—[Interruption.]—for the central Nottinghamshire health authority.

Mr. Mellor

I am glad to feel as though I am back at Chelsea football club. The hon. Gentleman's comments find a real echo among my hon. Friends. He can tell his constituents that from the beginning of April, £2 billion of extra resources will be made available to the National Health Service. It is a long time since any Government have done that.

Mr. Hayes

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that it is a question not just of how much, but of how we spend it? Will he urge the BMA and the presidents of the royal colleges to look carefully at the well reasoned and constructive critique of the National Association of Health Authorities in England and Wales and warn them that outbursts based on emotion rather than fact will do for the image of the medical profession what King Herod did for babysitting?

Mr. Mellor

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to what the National Association of Health Authorities in England and Wales has said, to which the Opposition have not drawn attention, because the response of the association was constructive. It has said that the proposals will benefit the Health Service. It is not good enough just to sign a large cheque because what matters is the patient care that is bought with it. We know that there are tremendous variations in efficiency and effectiveness in different parts of the NHS and our job is to draw the standards of them all up to the standards of the best. We are the only party that has provided a blueprint for doing that.