HC Deb 14 May 1996 vol 277 cc755-6
6. Mr. Garnier

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. [27986]

Mr. Dorrell

Total annual savings from the abolition of regional health authorities are expected to be about £100 million. A further £50 million has also been saved by the creation of single health authorities at local level. These substantial savings will be retained by the NHS and reinvested in patient care.

Mr. Garnier

Can my hon. Friend confirm that, with the abolition of the Trent regional health authority, patients in Leicestershire will benefit from a huge additional amount of money to be spent directly on patient care? Can he also confirm that, nationally, with other savings, we are now looking at an additional input of about £2 billion a year being spent directly on patient care?

Mr. Dorrell

My hon. and learned Friend is certainly right to say that there has been huge growth from a variety of different sources, which are delivering an expansion of patient care. The figure associated with increased administrative efficiency is £300 million in total, coming from regional health authorities, the reorganisation of district health authorities and the more efficient discharge of administrative functions within trusts. That is £300 million—a 1 per cent. increase in the total resources available for patient care—through more efficient administration.

Mr. Milburn

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, despite the abolition of the regional health authorities, the NHS bureaucracy bill increased by 6 per cent. in the past year alone? Will he also admit that the Government's market in health care has landed the NHS with an extra bureaucracy bill of £1,500 million every year—public money that should be invested in front-line patient services? Before he gets carried away, will he explain how 20,000 more managers and 50,000 fewer nurses add up to an NHS in which patients come first?

Mr. Dorrell

Constant repetition of wrong statistics does not make them right. As the hon. Gentleman very well knows, those statistics do not present anything like a fair representation of what has happened. The question that the Labour party has to answer is whether it believes—as did the predecessor of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman)—that the traditional health service was undermanaged, or whether it wants to go back to the health service as it was in the early 1980s. If it wants to go back to that, it will find no constituency for the administrative upheaval that will be involved. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the reality is that we are now committed to reducing the spend on administration to increase the spend on patient care. That is the commitment that the Government are in the process of delivering.