HC Deb 17 January 1995 vol 252 cc566-7
2. Mr. Mackinlay

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will set out, by year, the reorganisations of the national health service that have taken place since 1979.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

Major legislative changes were made in 1980, 1984 and 1990, as a result of which 2.5 million more patients are treated in hospital every year and the number of coronary bypass and cataract operations has more than doubled. The number of patients waiting more than a year for treatment is a quarter of the size that it was. I promise the House even more improvements following the publication of our new patients charter tomorrow.

Mr. Mackinlay

Have not Tory Governments reorganised the management structure of the health service on at least nine occasions since 1979? Is not it like painting the Forth bridge, except that the painting of that is normally completed before it is started again'? Will the Secretary of State reflect on the enormous cost to the public purse of those bogus reorganisations, which have sapped morale, lost expertise and meant that people who are dedicated to the national health service have not been able to care for patients?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman should address his remarks to his own spokesman, or possibly to his party leader. We are not entirely sure how health policy is approved in his party; perhaps Richard Rosser, the transport worker who chairs the hon. Gentleman's policy committee, approves it. Our changes have much improved the efficiency of the service and have increased the quantity and quality of care. It is the hon. Gentleman's party that is threatening upheaval and turmoil and to undo all the good achieved by health service workers in recent years.

Mrs. Roe

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government believe that the process of national health service reorganisation is now drawing to a close and that it will be her priority to create stability, under which staff can realise the full potential of the new system? Is that not in stark contrast with Labour's proposals, which threaten to tear the NHS up by its roots, thus inflicting massive damage on staff and patients? Does that not show in whose hands the NHS is really safe?

Mrs. Bottomley

I entirely endorse my hon. Friend's points. Health service staff have worked hard to achieve a quality of care that is now being observed by independent commentators and around the world. The recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report was an independent commentary on the success of our reforms. The Labour party, however, is trying to appease its left wing to buy out clause IV and to give the health service to the unions at a cost of £1 billion, which will do nothing for patients. The Labour party will not get away with that and the Socialist Health Association is already condemning it for its cynical approach.

Mr. Rooker

Will the Secretary of State explain how the constant reorganisations have helped my constituent, 88-year-old Frances Grew, who, on Sunday afternoon went into Good Hope hospital in Sutton Coldfield, waited five hours for a bed and, at 9 pm, was admitted to the maternity ward, where she remains today? How have we reached such a sorry state where an 88-year-old lady has to be admitted to a maternity ward to obtain treatment?

Mrs. Bottomley

Of course there will be times when things go wrong, and they should be investigated, but Labour's approach is always scaremongering, divisiveness and appeasing the unions. The hon. Gentleman failed to say that, in the west midlands in the past five years, the number of hours for which junior doctors are contracted has fallen by 20 hours, that five years ago there were 8,000 people on the two-year waiting list and that west midlands will meet the nine-month target by next year. Health achievements in the west midlands in the past five years are truly remarkable, but they all stand in jeopardy because of the policies of the Labour party.