HC Deb 24 May 1994 vol 244 cc167-8
3. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate she has made of the effect of this year's pay award on the number of health service staff employed by trusts and health authorities.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

None. The pay award is covered by efficiency savings. The estimate that we have made is that by using efficiently the extra £1.6 billion provided for the National Health Service this year, a further 4 per cent. of patients will be treated.

Mr. Griffiths

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer; I hope that it turns out to be true. If it is, I ask her to speak to the Secretary of State for Wales, because the chairman of the trust in my constituency, which is in Wales, has written on behalf of all the other trusts to tell him that the provision made for funding in Wales will result in cuts in staff and services to patients. Will she please give him advice on how to achieve the targets about which she has just told me?

Mrs. Bottomley

I have frequent discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. Both of us are determined to put patients first and to use the resources that the taxpayer gives to the health service to provide an ever higher quality and quantity of care. That is taking place in Wales, and in England, too.

Mr. Rowe

Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the inhibitions to the continuing astonishing success of the trusts is the continuation of the Whitley national scales? Will she give the House some assurance that that shadow, which hangs over all the negotiations conducted by trusts, will soon be looked at again?

Mrs. Bottomley

One of the most important freedoms that NHS trusts have is the ability to devolve pay and negotiations. Pay is the central cost in the NHS, and inflexible, rigid patterns, much loved by the Labour party—the poodle of the public sector unions—is an inhibition to our using our staff as flexibly and effectively as we can for patients.