HC Deb 26 April 1994 vol 242 cc87-9
2. Mr. Austin-Walker

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list all accident and emergency sites that have been closed in London since 1988–89; and which sites she plans to close as she implements her policy of "Making London Better".

The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

London is served by a dense network of accident and emergency departments. There are currently 40 A and E departments in the capital. No department will close until alternative cover is available and this will be the case before any changes arising out of "Making London Better" go ahead. I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the available information since 1988–89.

Mr. Austin-Walker

When will the Secretary of State stop deluding herself and attempting to deceive the public? Having confirmed in a recent answer that the number of accident and emergency sites has gone down by 17 per cent. since 1989, will she also admit that 9,000 beds have been lost in London in the past five years, that London now has fewer GPs and health visitors than it had three years ago, and that the number of people waiting for treatment in London has risen by 10 per cent. in the past year? Will she admit that, far from "making London better", her so-called reforms are making the health of London much worse?

Mrs. Bottomley

I would ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect a little on the need to rationalise health care in London. Before they became too populist, the Opposition supported investment in primary care. There can be no doubt that the £85 million going into primary care this year is essential. We need to strengthen our centres of excellence and our A and E departments. The hon. Gentleman seems to have overlooked in his catalogue of misery the £8.2 million that King's is spending on A and E, the £4.3 million that Lewisham is spending on A and E, the £3.2 million that St. Thomas's is spending on A and E, the £2 million that the Whittington is spending on A and E and the £1.1 million that the Homerton is spending on A and E. Those are all in areas represented by Labour Members who never praise the successes of the NHS or our investment in it.

Mr. Evennett

Does my right hon. Friend agree that better GP services will reduce the pressure on the accident and emergency departments? How much cash will her Department put into primary and community care in the coming year to improve the delivery of health care services to patients?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is aware that as many as 40 per cent. of the people who use accident and emergency departments in London could be helped either by minor injuries clinics or by better primary health care. That is why it is essential that we invest £85 million more in primary health care in London. It also matters to Londoners that there is a substantial investment in the London ambulance service, amounting to £14.8 million this year.

Mr. Blunkett

In justifying the fact that one in five A and E units have been closed, will the Secretary of State tell us how she justifies spending £150,000 of public money in the run-up to the local and Euro-elections on a propaganda leaflet, "NHS Changes in London", which has been put into every household in London and is a straight piece of Tory party propaganda?

Mrs. Bottomley

That is an outrageous comment. Members of the hon. Gentleman's party will confirm that I was pressed by the Select Committee on why we had not taken more steps to explain to Londoners the need for change.

When we started on the process, the Labour party pretended to be a responsible party of opposition and supported the need for change. It is only as the elections have come closer that Labour Members have become so populist that now even their health spokesman is not prepared to speak in the debate on London's health services this week.