HC Deb 07 November 1989 vol 159 cc821-2
6. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he will make it his policy to remind chairmen of regional health authorities of previous ministerial assurances concerning capital expenditure plans.

Mr. Freeman

It is the responsibility of regional health authorities in conjunction with district health authorities to draw up plans for capital expenditure on hospital and community health services. Ministerial assurances that capital projects will go ahead are given in conjunction with regional health authorities and will be respected.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my hon. Friend remind the chairman of the North Western regional health authority that Ministers have made pledges on at least four occasions since 1983 that Bolton new hospital would start this year? We are still waiting despite the fact that more than 100 schemes have been commissioned in the north-west since 1979. Will my hon. Friend also ensure that no new formulas are used that would adversely affect the north-west because of a change in the way in which the standard mortality ratio is used?

Mr. Freeman

Perhaps I can re-emphasise to my hon. Friend and to my other colleagues from the north-west and other parts of the country where capital projects have been discussed—and I use my words advisedly—that where ministerial assurances have been given that capital projects will go ahead, those promises will be honoured.

Mr. Rooker

Does the Minister think that the present capital programme will overcome the difficulties facing patients in the west midlands who go to an optician for an eye test, discover that their sight is defective, and then require a referral to an eye hospital? Those patients have to visit their doctors, who then contact the Birmingham and Midland eye hospital, which is giving appointments 30 months hence. Is that not part and parcel of the problems that Sir James Ackers raised with the Secretary of State and was publicly humiliated for his endeavours?

Mr. Freeman

We need no lessons from the Labour party about capital expenditure plans. This Administration has increased capital expenditure to a total of £1.2 billion this year.