HC Deb 14 February 1995 vol 254 c789
10. Sir David Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many patients were treated in national health service hospitals in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what were the comparable figures for 1978.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

There were 10.1 million episodes of care carried out in NHS hospitals in 1993–94. In 1978, the equivalent figure, calculated on a comparable basis, was 6.5 million. That is an increase of 55 per cent. I invite the House to congratulate NHS staff on that achievement.

Sir David Knox

Does my right hon. Friend agree that those figures provide clear evidence of the improvement of the national health service under the present Government? Will she confirm that the North Staffordshire hospital trust has made a significant contribution to that improvement?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Every time patients are asked their views of the NHS, they report extremely favourably. Indeed, a substantial increase in those who reported favourably on the NHS was found when it was measured last. As my hon. Friend rightly says, his local trust has played a magnificent part. I was just looking at its figures. There has been a three and a half times increase, for example, in day surgery and a huge range of quality improvements. The trust provides an excellent service for local people in what I know is an area of considerable need.

Ms Eagle

As the Secretary of State has asked us all to pay tribute to the staff of hospitals, which we gladly do, will she explain why the Wirral hospital trust is currently attempting to introduce something called a generic support worker so that domestics will be expected to conduct administration and clerical work, help clinical procedures and clean the wards, all for £3.50 per hour?

Mrs. Bottomley

The challenge for the health service is to ensure that all those who work in it are able to look flexibly at their activities so as to ensure that we get the maximum possible quality and quantity of patient care. The hon. Lady will know that last week we were able to support in full the recommendations of the review body for a fair reward for NHS staff, who have seen their pay increase, I am pleased to say, more over the past six years than it has for people in the private sector.