HC Deb 13 February 1996 vol 271 cc790-1
4. Mr. Evennett

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimates have been made of the savings resulting from the abolition of the regional health authorities; and if he will make a statement. [13307]

Mr. Dorrell

By 1997–98, total annual savings from the abolition of regional health authorities are expected to be around £100 million a year. A further £50 million a year has also been saved from the creation of single health authorities at local level. These substantial savings will be retained by the NHS and spent on improved patient care.

Mr. Evennett

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, and warmly endorse his determination to remove an unnecessary tier of bureaucracy in the NHS. Will he reaffirm that Conservative Members believe—that the Government strongly believe—in putting patients first, in putting money into medical provision, and not into unnecessary bureaucracy?

Mr. Dorrell

Yes, my hon. Friend is right. We believe in an efficiently run health service, in which the administration function is subject to exactly the same efficiency scrutiny as that to which managers subject all the other activities of the NHS. It is because we are engaged in that activity that, over the next few years, an extra £300 million will be devoted to improving patient care in the NHS.

Ms Harman

How can we rely on the figures that the Secretary of State has just given the House, given that he misled the House during the previous Health Question Time? Will he now admit that, contrary to what he said last time, no new beds have been opened in Consett, no new beds have been opened in Good Hope, no new beds have been opened in Newham general and no new beds have been opened in Chester? We believe in a Secretary of State who tells the truth about the national health service.

Mr. Dorrell

The hon. Lady is wrong on every one of the examples that she cited. What I told the House was exactly what happened—that, faced with an increase in the emergency work load, the managers in each of those hospitals provided extra bed space to ensure that it was dealt with. I should have thought that the hon. Lady would recognise that as good management delivering a good service to NHS patients.

Sir Terence Higgins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, as a result of changes in the regional structure, it was expected that some £11 million extra would be available for patient care in West Sussex? This is a matter of great importance to my constituency, because Worthing is the most underfunded district in the country-13 per cent. below capitation compared with 9 per cent. elsewhere. It now appears that a high percentage of that money will not go to reduce underfunding in the most underfunded district, but will go elsewhere. If the matter cannot be resolved, will my right hon. Friend receive a deputation?

Mr. Dorrell

Of course, I am always ready to receive a deputation led by my right hon. Friend, who has been a relentless and assiduous exponent of the interests of Worthing. I am sure that he will recognise that, as a result of last year's public expenditure survey settlement, West Sussex district health authority's allocation reflected a growth rate that is very much faster than the national average, reflecting the fact that Sussex is a below-target area. Worthing will benefit from that reallocation of resources in favour of Sussex, reflecting the operation of the weighted capitation formula, but I look forward to receiving my right hon. Friend's delegation.