HC Deb 07 November 1989 vol 159 cc824-5
9. Mr. French

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether any additional funds are being made available for the implementation of the Health Service reforms.

10. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase expenditure on accountants and statisticians in the National Health Service in preparation for his plans in the White Paper.

Mr. Freeman

We have made available the sum of £82 million for implementation work this year. This includes £12 million to strengthen the finance function in health authorities and hospitals. This funding will be over and above continued improvements in patient care.

Mr. French

I welcome that news, but will my hon. Friend undertake continuously to monitor the funding needed for implementing these reforms so that unavoidable and unforeseen extra expenditure can be taken into account without precipitating a crisis that will place the entire reform programme in jeopardy?

Mr. Freeman

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Spending for this year, at £82 million, although a significant sum, still amounts to only 0–4 per cent. of the total budget for the NHS in England, a budget which is growing this year by about 10 per cent.

Mr. Bennett

Can the Minister explain how it is possible for the Government to find extra funding to put forward their doctrinaire plans yet not possible for them to find extra funding to settle the ambulance dispute, to reduce the hours of junior hospital doctors or to ensure that we have enough nurses? Have not the Government got their priorities wrong; do we not need the money to be spent on patients rather than on statisticians trying to prove that the Government are doing better than they are?

Mr. Freeman

No, Sir. The additional funds required to improve the management of the Health Service are designed to improve the control of expenditure of finite resources. Good financial management is necessary for better patient care.

Mr. Couchman

Can my hon. Friend reassure the House, as my right hon. and learned Friend reassured the BMA, that no patient will suffer for lack of medication, whatever the need or cost, as a result of the impact of his proposed indicative budgets?

Mr. Freeman

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. There are no proposals to cash-limit drug prescriptions by general practitioners.

Mr. Morley

Is not the Minister's proccupation with accountants more to do with the fact that the Government propose to run hospitals more like grocery stores than as a service to the community? Would it not be better if he addressed himself to the fact that hospitals are run on team work and that many groups of workers—laboratory technicians, physiotherapists and X-ray technicians—feel that they do not have a career structure or salary that reflects their commitment to the communities in which they work?

Mr. Freeman

The NHS in the United Kingdom consumes £26,000 million. Surely the hon. Gentleman will therefore accept that we need the best possible methods of controlling that vast expenditure.

Mr. Latham

Will it be clearly understood by the accountants and statisticians that through extra efficiency they will be expected to recover more than the £12 million that it will cost to recruit them?

Mr. Freeman


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