HC Deb 05 November 1991 vol 198 cc319-20
8. Mr. Harry Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are the latest figures for the full cost, and staffing details, of the income generation unit; and what are its aims.

Mr. Dorrell

The income generation unit is no longer a separate entity within the Department.

Mr. Barnes

Has the income generation unit given advice to trust hospitals and health authorities on the building of private wings? Was such advice given to the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal hospital? What is the difference between building private wings and privatisation?

Mr. Dorrell

During its existence the income generation union gave a wide range of advice to NHS units. For the expenditure of little more than £250,000 per year we have been able to generate extra funds to support and improve patient care within the NHS rising from £9 million in 1988–89 to £50 million last year. Part of those resources were raised from the sale of NHS facilities for the treatment of private patients. I cannot understand why some Opposition Members—we do not know whether this is the official Opposition Front-Bench policy—appear to believe that profits from private medicine must be preserved for private companies and not made available to the NHS to improve care for NHS patients.

Mr. John Greenway

Is my hon. Friend aware that with the help and advice of the income generation unit, a business man in my constituency has successfully installed private telephones in hospitals in the north-east, paid for by advertising? The only loser from that practice is British Telecom. Some of the profits made from BT telephones in hospitals, which Labour Members appear to think are excessive, can be recouped by the hospital and used to benefit patients.

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only does that initiative produce a wider range of services to benefit patients and extra resources for the health service but an improved range of hospital facilities, so that services previously available only to private patients in private hospitals are increasingly available to all patients in NHS hospitals.

Mr. Rooker

Was the income generation unit responsible for the policy adopted by New Cross hospital in Wolverhampton and the Mayday hospital in Croydon, whereby bedridden patients must hire a television for a minimum of three days at a cost of £1.95 a day—which is about twice the rate charged by high street television rental companies? Is it not scandalous that ministerial offices and the House have televisions provided by the taxpayer, yet bedridden patients who want to watch television to help them to relax must pay?

Mr. Dorrell

Hospital managers are responsible for providing such services, not any unit of the Department of Health. If the result of the income generation approach is that more resources are released to treat more patients and provide additional resources for their medical care, it does not seem that anyone should have to apologise for that policy.

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