HC Deb 29 April 1991 vol 190 cc9-10
8. Mr. Raffan

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the amount of Welsh Office funding made available to Clwyd health authority over the last five years to reduce waiting lists.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett

Since the inception of the waiting times initiative in 1986, Clwyd health authority has received funding of over £330,000 to assist its own efforts in tackling waiting lists.

Mr. Raffan

Why has Clwyd health authority received only that amount out of a total of £5.35 million for reducing waiting lists in Wales? Is my hon. Friend aware that that constitutes a little over 5 per cent. of the total amount, whereas Clwyd health authority covers 14 per cent. of the population in Wales, its in-patient waiting list has increased by 9.2 per cent. on last year and its out-patient waiting list has increased by 10.6 per cent. on last year?

Mr. Bennett

My hon. Friend forgets that out of the sum for the waiting times initiative comes the funding for the three treatment centres, which take up the largest proportion of the available money. Since 1979 in Clwyd, the number of in-patients treated, including day cases, has risen by 45 per cent. and the number of out-patients treated by 21 per cent. This year, we increased Clwyd health authority's budget by 9.8 per cent. Since 1979, the health authority's total increase has been 50 per cent. in real terms.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister assure us that any increase in the funding available to Clwyd health authority will not be swallowed up by additional administrative costs? That is happening in Gwynedd, where, over the next two months, no fewer than 56 additional posts will be created—for example, for contract officers and business managers—at a cost of £800,000 a year. That finance needs to be at the sharp end to provide services for the people on waiting lists.

Mr. Bennett

It is important that health authorities operate within a properly managed system. That is why we have introduced reforms. They mean that people must keep track of how money is spent, so that we do not have health authorities running out of money two thirds of the way through the year because they have not been managed properly. Sixty-three per cent. of our staff are front-line staff, compared with 57 per cent. in 1979.

Mr. Gareth Wardell

Is not it true that in Clwyd health authority, as in all health authorities in Wales, the health service is grossly underfunded compared with virtually every other western European country? Is not it time that the Minister gave a commitment that not a single health authority in Wales will run out of money by the end of this financial year and that a general practitioner can continue to refer his or her patients to any hospital in the country? Will the hon. Gentleman give a commitment that all the health authorities and GPs will be funded and will not run out of money?

Mr. Bennett

I cannot give that commitment—any more than the Leader of the Opposition could on the "Walden" programme yesterday when challenged on this matter. If we were to run the health service at the last Labour Government's expenditure level, £650 million less would be spent. Under the Conservative Government, spending on the health service has increased by 56 per cent. in real terms.