§ The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Stephen Dorrell)
Life expectancy in 1979 was 70.4 years for men and 76.5 years for women in England and Wales. By 1993, those figures had risen to 74 years and 79.3 years respectively.
§ Dr. Spink
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the blessing of a longer life results from two factors: first, Government policy, which has meant that an additional 1.5 million patients have been treated each year, 800 major building projects in hospitals have been brought on board, a greater range of treatments have become available and quality in hospitals has improved; and secondly, the skill and the dedication of nurses, doctors, carers and managers who operate hospitals?
§ Mr. Dorrell
My hon. Friend is precisely right. We have seen a dramatic improvement in life expectancy and the quality of life enjoyed by many citizens as a result of the success of the national health service. He is quite right to draw attention to that measure of its success, which is in the end the measure that matters to the patient.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Is the Minister not aware that life expectancy has improved in every decade this century? Since it improved less in the past decade than in some previous decades, what is so special about the figures?
§ Mr. Dorrell
I would have hoped that the hon. Gentleman, who has not only worked in the health service but espouses its cause, would have wanted to join an all-party celebration of the success of the NHS.