HC Deb 26 January 1993 vol 217 cc864-5
9. Mr. Nigel Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans the Government have formulated to carry out the strategy outlined in the White Paper "Health of the Nation".

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The "Health of the Nation" strategy has been described by the World Health Organisation as a model for other countries to follow. There is a commitment to the strategy across government at the highest level, Action is now in hand to implement it in full. I have placed a summary of current action and initiatives in the Library.

Mr. Evans

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her reply. Does she remember the speech she gave last year to the Conservative party conference? [Interruption.] Everyone appears to remember it. She referred then to aspects and elements of "Health of the Nation" and to her personal commitment to mental illness and the strategy relating to it. Will she therefore accept the grateful thanks of many of my constituents who are extremely concerned about this issue? Would she also agree that, because of the surge of interest in mental illness recently, what she said then has been completely vindicated?

Mrs. Bottomley

I thank my hon. Friend. Mental illness is three times as common as cancer and is a source of major disability and loss of time from work and must be a priority for us in the health service. It is a key area in the health of the nation and is vital in the implementation of community care. It is a question of resources. We are spending £1.7 billion on our mental health services, £43 million with the local authorities, but it is also a question of the delivery of those services. It is an area where I think that we must work together to secure better and more effective results.

Mr. Wigley

May I question the Secretary of State further on the full utilisation of the capacity of hospitals to give treatment? Notwithstanding the increase to which her Minister referred for the first nine months of this year, does she accept what a consultant said on the radio last week—that he is unable, in the last quarter of this financial year, to undertake as much work as he could because of the shortage of resources? Surely this cannot be in line with her objectives for the health service. Can she try and get something done about it?

Mrs. Bottomley

The House will well understand that it is a question of the way in which resources are used and the way in which we balance priorities. That will always be difficult, but much can be done from the centre and much has to be done locally. The key targets in the "Health of the Nation"—heart disease, cancer, accident, sexual health and mental illness—all have areas where we want to pioneer and innovate. All have areas where one has to balance between acute and community care. It is a question of taking people with us as we develop a strategy that the NHS reforms have made possible and which we have to deliver by the turn of the century.