HC Deb 21 November 1990 vol 181 cc284-5
11. Mr. Nigel Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will estimate the net projected savings of Lothian health board in the current financial year.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

Action taken by the board should bring monthly income and expenditure into balance by the end of the year.

Mr. Griffiths

Does the Minister of State not realise that he and his vile policies have brought Lothian health board to the brink of bankruptcy and that this year it faces cuts of £12 million on top of ward and hospital closures? Why is it that, during all the years of stewardship by the Secretary of State, during which he has appointed Tory party hacks to preside over Lothian health board, there has been a financial crisis every year? When will the Minister of State encourage his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to sack Lothian health board and resign?

Mr. Forsyth

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should seek to attack the record of Lothian health board in that way. As he knows, there is a new hospital—St. John's—in the constituency of his hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). There has been a series of new developments in Lothian and the board has rationalised services. During the period to which the hon. Gentleman refers, more patients than ever before have been treated and the board has employed more staff who have seen their salaries go up by more in real terms. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman seeks to decry the record of the board and to demoralise the staff and those who are doing so well in Lothian as a result of the board's work.

Mr. Eadie

The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with the statistics that he trots out. He must be very well aware that, virtually without exception, the medical profession in Edinburgh has said that if Lothian health board persists with its cuts—not savings—it will harm hospital care in the Lothian region. The hon. Gentleman cannot deny that.

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that the proposals by Lothian health board for rationalisation of services and bringing expenditure into line with income had the support of the area medical committee and the medical profession. That is because people recognise that the proposed closures are part of proposals to bring modern facilities and modern hospitals into being. That must be right if the board is to be able to meet the demands of the next century and beyond.

Mr. Galbraith

Does the Minister agree that part of the reason for Lothian being in trouble is that it had to spend a large amount of money on the bureaucracy to set up the internal market? By April 1991, it will have wasted £50 million on bureaucracy to set up a market which is unworkable, extremely expensive and intensely bureaucratic. Would not it be better to spend that £50 million on patient care rather than on employing more bureaucrats to push more paper around?

Mr. Forsyth

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's conversion to local management. He is arguing that decisions should be taken at local level, that patients should be allowed to go where they can best obtain treatment and that resources should follow them. That is an internal market. The independent consultants' report showed clearly that Lothian health board's problems had arisen from financial mismanagement. If anything, that vindicates our determination to ensure proper accountability of funds in the health service.