HC Deb 26 January 1993 vol 217 cc865-6
10. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimates she has made of the total savings to the NHS from efficiency improvements.

Dr. Mawhinney

Since 1978–79, hospital and community health services activity has grown by 29 per cent. compared with an increase in current spending—adjusted for hospital and community health services pay and prices —of 9 per cent. This means efficiency has grown by 19 per cent. over 12 years. This includes cash-releasing savings, now running at a cumulative £1.7 billion per annum, and also other efficiency gains from using resources more productively. Total efficiency gains of 2 per cent. are planned for both this year and next.

Mr. Riddick

Are not those figures highly impressive? Will my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that the savings achieved through greater efficiency will not be squandered by retaining excess capacity for hospital provision in London? Does he agree that if the Tomlinson recommendations are not implemented, there will be fewer resources for hospitals outside London and the losers will be NHS patients in the regions, in constituencies such as mine?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; it is a very good record and it is to the credit of those who work in the NHS throughout the country that it has been achieved. I can confirm that the savings that have resulted have been used for other patient care. With regard to the latter point made by my hon. Friend, it is certainly one of the issues that are in the forefront of our minds as we contemplate the recommendations made by Sir Bernard Tomlinson.

Mr. Enright

Is the Minister aware that it is the practice of several trusts, and I am thinking of Bassetlaw in particular, to buy expensive cars such as BMWs for their administrators, to take out car insurance for them all, and to spend NHS money in that way? Will he undertake to investigate that practice and find out how much it costs, because rip-offs such as those make Lambeth look like Snow White?

Dr. Mawhinney

We on the Government side understand how embarrassed hon. Gentlemen are about Lambeth, but it will not go away and it will certainly not go away under the guise of pathetic—HON MEMBERS: "Answer".] I am trying to answer the question; the hon. Gentleman mentioned Lambeth. Secondly, I should have been more impressed by his question if he had bothered to take up the matter with me in a considered fashion by letter, but he has not done that. No doubt, if he does, we shall be able to respond. Trusts are treating more patients, using their resources more effectively and delivering better quality service, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not welcome that.

Mr. Enright

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is aware that I cannot take points of order in the middle of questions.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Opposition seem to think that one can buy a better service simply by calling for more money, whereas we like to spend the money effectively? Compulsory competitive tendering has already saved £140 million. Does this not prove that our policies work?

Dr. Mawhinney

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and puts the case very well.

I just want to add with reference to the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright) that apparently he has written to me, but I have not seen the letter yet. If that is indeed the case, I should clarify that.