HC Deb 22 February 1994 vol 238 cc136-7
5. Mr. Barry Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has for the future of the pay review bodies.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The role of the review bodies will be kept under review as trusts increasingly use their freedoms to determine pay locally.

Mr. Jones

Is not the right hon. Lady hopelessly at odds with the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Does she really believe that there is extra money for extra pay?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman should talk to his party's health spokesman. I thought that his difficulty lay in the Tippexing out of the price on the recently published policy document, which was described by The Times as "cosmetic surgery".

I have no difficulty with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor. As my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) said in such a distinguished fashion, my right hon. and learned Friend has made an extra £1,600 million available for the national health service—an extra £83 per household. Let me inform the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) that, since the beginning of Question Time, we have spent an extra £1.5 million on the health service.

Mr. Ashby

Does my right hon. Friend understand that the health service trusts are really asking for a large degree of freedom from the findings of the review bodies, so that they can reward those who have worked better and thus make overall savings for their hospitals?

Mrs. Bottomley

I entirely agree. We want to devolve pay as far as possible; we want to make good progress in that regard this year. The review bodies' reports commend such action, and we are looking for results from the trusts, which know that they can achieve better efficiency by adopting a more flexible approach to their staff.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Secretary of State urgently review the pay agreements with dentists, in view of the rate at which they are leaving the national health service? Is she aware that, in the whole of my constituency and half the neighbouring constituency, only one dentist is now taking on NHS patients? When that dentist was approached yesterday, the earliest appointment that he could give was in July. Is the right hon. Lady aware that the emergency peripatetic dental service provides only one dentist for 105,000 patients in the area? The NHS has broken down here. Will the Secretary of State please do something about it?

Mrs. Bottomley

Dentists have received a 3 per cent. increase in their fees under the review body's recommendations. More money will go into dentistry than ever before. The hon. Gentleman is right, however, and that is why we have already commissioned the Bloomfield report on the remuneration of dentists. We want a system that is fairer to dentists, to the taxpayer and to patients. I hope that we shall be able to make more announcements on that subject before long.

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