HC Deb 18 December 1990 vol 183 cc147-8
11. Mr. Hayes

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to meet the chairman of the National Association of Health Authorities to discuss the financing of the health service.

Mr. Waldegrave

I look forward to meeting him on 31 January when I shall speak at his association's annual reception. I am sure that we shall discuss financial matters there.

Mr. Hayes

Is my right hon. Friend greatly encouraged by the warm welcome with which his speech last week was received by the National Association of Health Authorities and the other caring professions? Coupled with the clear commitment of my hon. Friend the Minister for Health to cut junior doctors' working hours, does my right hon. Friend believe that that shows without doubt that the Government believe in a health service for everyone, financed primarily out of taxation and free at the point of delivery?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I should like to take the opportunity provided by his question to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister for Health and to her [...] including Dr. Diana Walford and Dr. Stephen Hunter, who have achieved what will turn out to be an historic breakthrough on the long-standing matter of junior doctors' hours.

Mr. Madden

Will the Secretary of State launch an urgent investigation into the funding crisis gripping the national health service in Bradford? Does he understand that, because of that cash crisis, there is widespread dismay at the fact that the Bradford NHS trust has gone ahead and still greater dismay at the fact that the chairman is a millionaire business man from Wakefield who knows nothing about the NHS in Bradford and still less about the health care needs of the people of Bradford?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is astonishing that the Labour party should regret the fact that some of the best business men want to give their skills to the health service. That action will benefit the people of Bradford and that principle will benefit us all more widely.

Mr. Walden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, although many Conservative Members are entirely behind the reforms that were introduced by his predecessor and which he carried through, in several areas—not least the Aylesbury Vale health authority and Stoke Mandeville hospital—a serious situation is developing as the hospital seeks to make ends meet before the new regime comes in next spring? As a result, there have been serious cuts in the number of operations performed. Will my right hon. Friend look at the overall costs of writing off the debts of those areas that are in serious financial difficulty, before the new regime comes in next spring, so that they can start with a clean slate?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is understood that some of the London districts will not have to remove their deficits before the beginning of the new system. However, it would be a bad managerial signal to allow those that have overspent their budgets again to pre-empt resources that should be available to the whole of the health service, including those that have achieved their budgets.

Mr. Robin Cook

Hon. Members of all parties have pointed out to the Secretary of State the immense pressure on health authorities from the obligation to remove their deficits. May I remind him that three years ago this week, one of his predecessors found an extra £100 million for a similar crisis in the hospital service? As beds are now closing faster than they did three years ago and as waiting lists are now longer than they were three years ago, why cannot the Secretary of State do the same? Why cannot the Government, who have written off the debts of every privatised industry, now write off the deficits of our hospitals?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that it has been a long-standing objective to bring districts back into balance. That is the right thing to do and we shall continue to do it, although, as I said, there will be some flexibility in London. That remains the position.

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