HC Deb 25 January 1994 vol 236 cc155-6
8. Mr. Amess

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she has taken to ensure that overall NHS trust hospitals are able to continue the greatly increased equipment expenditure of recent years.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

Trusts now have freedom to spend more than a third of the capital allocated to them according to their own capital investment priorities and we are increasing that amount year by year. Many trusts choose to make equipment a priority and that policy makes more money available for that purpose.

Mr. Amess

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since Basildon hospital achieved trust status, 7 per cent. more patients have been treated and expenditure has been reduced by 7 per cent? Is he further aware that more than £425,000 has been spent on new medical equipment, including £200,000 on a new gamma camera? That is an improvement of 100 per cent. on what the hospital did before it became a trust. Finally, will my right hon. Friend vigorously continue to defend our wonderful national health service against the scurrilous attacks from socialist Opposition Members?

Dr. Mawhinney

No one could have put it better than my hon. Friend. His commitment to his constituents, which is well known, also extends to health. Indeed, the trust has done even better in terms of capital equipment. In the year before it became a trust, the hospital was spending only £150,000; now, as my hon. Friend says, it is spending £425,000. The most important thing, however, is the increase in the number of patients treated. That is what Conservative Members consider the national health service to be about. Unfortunately, that view is not shared by the Opposition.

Mr. Flynn

Does the Minister realise that high spending does not always mean good value? Of the 60 different hip replacement implants that are available to the health service, the ones that are most expensive are often the least reliable, requiring new operations. Has the Minister noticed that in Sweden 5,000 Christiansen hips were put into people and none of them lasted four years? In Britain, we are spending huge sums without a proper examination of the quality of the replacements that are put in. Will the Minister require and ensure that there is a system properly to evaluate the reliability of hips that are put into patients?

Dr. Mawhinney

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question was certainly right. Every year, we observe Labour-controlled authorities throughout the country spending lots of money and getting poor value for it. The Government have done more to improve the quality of care in the health service than any of our predecessors, and we shall continue to pursue that end.

Mr. Jenkin

Is my right hon. Friend aware that since the Essex Rivers healthcare trust gained trust status on 1 April 1992 it has substantially expanded its facilities, with a new day surgery centre and a new ward, and that it has further plans for expansion? Will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to pay tribute to the hardworking staff of the hospital and will he give an undertaking that North Essex health authority will continue to benefit from the increase in its share of resources, which is rightly due to it under the capitation funding system, so as to enable that expansion to continue?

Dr. Mawhinney

I agree with my hon. Friend's latter point, and I am happy to join him in paying tribute to the nurses, doctors and staff—including the management and administrative staff so denigrated by the Labour party—for combining to improve patient care in the trust. The difference between the average number of patients treated under the Labour Government and the number treated under the reformed national health service amounts to no fewer than 360,000 each year. That is the sort of record to which my hon. Friend's hospital trust contributes, and I congratulate it on its achievements.