HC Deb 08 December 1993 vol 234 cc295-6
1. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met chairmen of health boards to discuss financial allocation.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)

My noble and learned Friend the Minister of State meets chairmen of health boards regularly to discuss a wide range of strategic issues affecting the management of the NHS in Scotland. Many of those issues may have financial implications. The last such meeting took place on 5 November.

Mr. Ross

Will the Secretary of State take time to meet the chairmen of health boards? Is he aware that two trust hospitals in Scotland—one is in my constituency and the other is in the constituencies of my hon. Friends the Members for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) and fror Paisley, North (Mrs. Adams)—have already advised doctors and consultants to pace themselves, and that doctors and consultants in Dundee hospital trusts are running short of money? Is he further aware that, of all the state-registered nurses who will graduate in Tayside this year, not one will be offered a job? Is not it time that the right hon. Gentleman made more funds available so that required operations can be carried out and nurses who have gone through two years of training can get jobs?

Mr. Lang

I am aware that, since a number of hospitals in Scotland have become trusts, the efficiency with which they have delivered services has so improved that they are already achieving their targets for the whole year. That is a measure of the considerable success of the trust movement. Funding for health care has increased in real terms by almost 3 per cent. in the current year, and it is for the hospital trusts and the health board to decide whether any further resources might be available.

Mr. Ian Bruce

In my right hon. Friend's discussions with the chairmen, has he compared the allocation of funds in Scotland and in England and Wales? Have there been any statistics on the increase in the number of patients treated in England and Wales under the health reforms compared to the number in Scotland?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is right to make that point. Resources for health care in Scotland are more than 20 per cent. per head higher than in England and Wales. That, however, reflects the relative position as regards the quality of health in both countries—for example, the morbidity rate in Scotland is much higher. I regret to have to say that the quality of health generally in parts of Scotland is very much lower than the United Kingdom average.

Ms Rachel Squire

Does the Secretary of State agree that the financial allocation process in the health service is being used to create not only two classes of patients but two classes of employees? For example, the previous general manager of Fife health board, Francis Gibb, who left under a cloud, has now been given a £65,000 a year job, whereas hundreds of vital, low-paid health service workers, who have given years of quality service to Fife health board, were yesterday thrown on to the privatisation scrapheap? Should not public money be used to provide quality health service for all staff and patients and not to provide jobs for the blue-eyed boys who are friends of the Tory party?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Lady's description is a travesty of the reality. Mr. Francis Gibb did not leave Fife health board under a cloud. He was seconded to the management executive between November 1991 and July 1993, where he carried out some very successful and important work setting up the national specialist service unit, which is responsible for cardiac surgery, heart and lung transplants, liver transplants and a number of other contracts worth a total of £75 million. He was offered the chance to transfer to the Common Services Agency in September 1993 to ensure continuity under a two-year contract of employment. I regard that as an extremely sensible move.

On funding of the health service in general, the hon. Lady should be aware that, after the statement which I shall make this afternoon, the increase in health care in real terms in Scotland will be almost 50 per cent. higher than it was under the previous Labour Government.

Mr. Heald

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, far from it being a case of jobs for the boys, one of the benefits of NHS trusts is that they have put nurses and nursing directors on the boards of trust hospitals, thereby enhancing their role, as the Select Committee on Employment was told only yesterday?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is right. The hospital trust exercise has been enormously successful in Scotland and, by next April, some 90 per cent. of all Scottish health care will be delivered in that way.

Mr. Galbraith

Will the Secretary of State discuss with the chairman of Greater Glasgow health board the implications for its acute strategy of his decision to allow three acute hospitals in Glasgow to achieve trust status? In other words, will Greater Glasgow health board and the Government still go ahead with their plans to cut at least 1,000 acute beds, or will it be left to the vagaries and brawl of the internal market?

Mr. Lang

The development of the acute services strategy in Greater Glasgow will be a high priority for the new chairman and staff of Greater Glasgow health board. The hon. Gentleman must wait on events.

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