HC Deb 24 May 1994 vol 244 cc175-6
12. Mrs. Roe

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many practice nurses are currently employed by general practitioners; and what the figures were in 1979.

Dr. Mawhinney

Many practice nurses work part time. Translated into whole-time equivalents, the number rose from 992 in 1979 to 9,605 last year—an increase of nearly 900 per cent.

Mrs. Roe

Does not that figure show clearly the phenomenal development in primary care and general practice since 1979? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the opportunity for GPs to delegate a wide range of tasks to practice nurses both eases their work load and makes a significant contribution to the achievement of targets on immunisation and screening?

Dr. Mawhinney

As always, my hon. Friend has it exactly right. She will be pleased to know that in 1979 there were approximately 20,000 practice staff and in 1993, the figure had risen to approximately 54,000. To put it another way, in 1979, we were spending £43 million on practice staff and last year, we spent £514 million on practice staff, which has enabled GPs to do precisely what my hon. Friend identified.

Mr. Bayley

Will the Minister agree to bring in a change to the funding of the health service so that the same capitation funding formula applies to fundholding and non-fundholding GPs, the two-tier system is abolished and the patients of both types of GP have an equal opportunity to benefit from practice nurses?

Dr. Mawhinney

There no two-tier system, as the hon. Gentleman knows—there is a proper allocation of capitation resources to fundholders and non-fundholders. Indeed, I believe that I am right in saying, if he casts his mind back to the evidence that I gave to the Select Committee when he was a member of it, that some of the latest information suggests that GP fundholders may be receiving marginally less per number of patients than non-fundholders.