HC Deb 17 January 1995 vol 252 cc573-4
8. Sir David Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of gross domestic product was spent on the national health service in the most recent year for which figures are available; and what was the percentage in 1978.

Mr. Malone

National health service spending in the United Kingdom as a whole has risen from 4.7 per cent. of gross domestic product in 1978–79 to an estimated 5.8 per cent. in 1994–95.

Sir David Knox

Does my hon. Friend agree that those figures show up the different priorities that Conservative and Labour Governments have for the national health service?

Mr. Malone

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Not only that—they underpin the fact that there is increased activity and not merely increased spending. It is the improvement in patient health care that really counts for people in this country.

Ms Jowell

In view of the proportion of gross domestic product spent on the national health service and the importance of securing proper value for money for patients, does the Minister for Health accept that more rigorous monitoring is needed of the way in which NHS consultants who also undertake private practice divide their time between their NHS responsibilities and their private patients?

Mr. Malone

I am delighted that the hon. Lady now seems to support the Government's policy for ensuring that the management of clinicians should be devolved to a local level so that all these matters can be examined. I welcome her to this side. I had hoped that an Opposition Front-Bench Member might stand up and say what a Labour Government would spend as a proportion of gross domestic product, but on the vital matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Sir D. Knox) there is yet again a resounding silence from the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

I warmly welcome the figures, which clearly show the Government's commitment to the national health service. Does my hon. Friend accept that some high-tech sophisticated operations cannot be carried out in hospitals within the national health service in the United Kingdom? I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the case of Miss Alicia McCluckie in my constituency, who needed to go to New York for an operation to remove a brain tumour. Will my hon. Friend introduce a system to provide people in this country with a procedure whereby they can bring pressure to bear on the authorities to provide facilities for operations abroad when such treatment is not available in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Malone

e people come to Britain to take advantage of medical services here than travel abroad. However, it is true that some procedures are available abroad which have not been clinically proven in this country.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

In 1978, Britain spent 8 per cent. less than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average on public health care. By 1991, the position had changed to 12 per cent. below the OECD average. Before I answer the Minister's questions, perhaps he will tell the House why the relative position has regressed under Conservative Government.

Mr. Malone

The hon. Gentleman said, "Before I answer the Minister's questions," but he is clearly not going to do so. Perhaps we shall get a commitment once the answer has been cleared, although I had thought that the hon. Gentleman was one of the Front-Bench spokesmen cleared to speak for his party.

On the OECD league tables, the hon. Gentleman is forgetting entirely that one is not comparing health systems that are the same. Some bring in expenditure from social services while others have an entirely different structure. He should study the OECD recommendations, which state that the British health care system is probably the most effective in the European Union and, more importantly, that we allocate funds throughout the country in a far fairer, more flexible and more sophisticated way than any other health service in Europe in order to meet deprivation and need.

Mr. Hayes

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most civilised part of Essex—Harlow—is delighted with the increased spending on the health service? We are delighted with our new NHS trust, our new computerised axial tomography scanner and our new magnetic resonance imaging scanner, and also with the £10 million spent by the Government on our accident and emergency facilities.

Madam Speaker

And I shall be delighted if the hon. Gentleman will ask a question.

Mr. Hayes

Thank you for that advice, Madam Speaker. Does my hon. Friend agree with me?

Mr. Malone

I had always thought that my hon. Friend was the most sophisticated and delightful part of Essex, but that opinion is perhaps not shared across the Floor of the House. I thoroughly agree with him. I was in Essex last week, opening a community health trust centre in Purfleet, which shows how excellent health care is in that county and how it is improving.