HC Deb 04 May 1993 vol 224 cc6-8
5. Ms Short

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to review the formula used by her Department for funding district health authorities; and whether she will make a statement.

Dr. Mawhinney

It is for regional health authorities to keep allocation formulae for allocating to districts under review. The Department is reviewing the formula for allocating to regions, and will give guidance to regional health authorities on any lessons learned from the national review which might profitably be applied in the regions' district formulae.

Ms Short

The Minister will know that the formula used nationally rightly gives a higher weight to the number of elderly people in an area, because they are heavier users of the health service. As a consequence, areas such as mine in west Birmingham—a poor community, where people on average live less long—lose money for the health service, and that has been recognised locally as some adjustments have been made.

I should like an undertaking that, until the Minister can get the formula right, my area and others like it—I think that there are six in the country—will not lose any money because of the defect in his formula.

Dr. Mawhinney

I understand the hon. Lady's argument, and also that west Birmingham is considerably over the capitation formula arrangements. In my answer to her question, I sought to encourage her that we are considering more direct measures for NHS care and treatment, as part of our response to the 1991 census and our review of the formulae that we apply to make money available to regional health authorities.

A better basis may emerge from our review—rather than simply issues based on social deprivation—which we might be able to commend to regions for consideration. As the hon. Lady knows, however, decisions on capitation allocations are ultimately matters for the regions.

Mrs. Roe

Does my hon. Friend agree that, although the level of health spending and how the money is distributed are clearly important, one should judge the success of the health service by the number of patients treated and the quality of service provided? Has my hon. Friend seen the recent Labour party publication which claims to provide an overview of the health services but which hardly mentions patients in its general obervations? Does not that show that the Opposition have got their priorities all wrong?

Dr. Mawhinney

As always my hon. Friend is exactly right. I searched almost in vain for a mention of the word "patient" in the latest Labour party document. I found the Labour party view that the health service was about £40 billion underfunded. Now we all know that Labour wants to add 26p to the basic rate of tax to fund the NHS. We do not know how much the Liberal Democrats would like to add to the basic rate. They also always claim that more money should be spent—but they do not have the guts of the Labour party to say how much.

Dr. Lynne Jones

Will the Minister compensate the people of the west midlands for the £10 million wasted as a result of incompetence, if not corruption, on the part of those whom the Government put in charge of that health authority's affairs?

Dr. Mawhinney

No doubt the hon. Lady was pleased to learn that this year, West Midlands regional health authority received £1.855 billion to spend on health care delivery in the region, which was an increase of more than 2.9 per cent. in cash or 1 per cent. in real terms.

The hon. Lady made a serious point. She knows that the Government take the matter seriously. Recently, I visited Birmingham to make sure that all the lessons that needed to be learned from recent events in the west midlands have been learnt and that appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that they do not occur again. I was encouraged not only by the actions taken by Sir Donald Wilson as the authority's new chairman but by the new mood of confidence and determination pervading the authority, which will ensure that the people of Birmingham and of the west midlands receive the best possible health care, which they deserve.

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