HC Deb 18 March 1997 vol 292 cc707-8
1. Mr. Rooney

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for the use of the private sector in primary care provision in the NHS. [19161]

The Minister for Health (Mr. Gerald Malone)


Mr. Rooney

Were not the Government's true intentions on primary care, as with so much of the national health service, shown in the original drafting of the National Health Service (Primary Care) Bill—that is, the wholesale privatisation of the service and the extensive involvement of the private sector, to the detriment of patients?

Mr. Malone

No. The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. I thought that he might have been rising to record the 6.9 per cent. increase in the number of general practitioners since 1978–79 in his local health authority, or perhaps to congratulate it on 60 per cent., of the local population being covered by fundholding, but no, he raises yet again another argument that we killed off both in Committee and on the Floor of the House.

Dame Jill Knight

Will my hon. Friend ensure that, in the coming general election campaign, three points will be made: first, the precise amount of savings made in the NHS by the use of the private sector; secondly, that every penny of those savings went towards patient care; thirdly, that there would be no chance of such money coming if ever the Labour party was to have a chance to govern?

Mr. Malone

I am happy to endorse my hon. Friend's points. Of course it is true that the Labour party still has an ideological point of view about any private sector involvement, no matter how new it may try to appear to the public. That would mean fewer services for patients.

Ms Jowell

Is the Minister aware that, in the past four years, the amount spent by fundholding doctors on getting patients treated in private hospitals has increased from £4 million to £66 million and that, at the same time, 144 trusts have gone into debt? Is that not further evidence of the Government's undermining of the NHS in favour of private health care, and that the Government's failure to safeguard the NHS shows why the people of Britain deserve better?

Mr. Malone

Perhaps it is about time the hon. Lady started to think about patients when she talks about health care and the quality of services that are being provided. Put into context, the figure she mentions is about 1.9 per cent. of fundholding budgets. It provides better care for patients and services that patients want. The whole nation will know that the Labour party would deny them those services if it were ever to be returned to office.

Mr. Cash

Does my hon. Friend know that Staffordshire social services department is deliberately preventing people from going into residential and nursing care in the private sector, contrary to the principles enunciated in my right hon. Friend Secretary of State for Health's excellent White Paper, and that the High Court has recently issued an injunction against that department because of the disgraceful way in which it is handling that function and responsibility?

Mr. Malone

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. He gets to the heart of who—Conservatives or Labour— will provide better services for patients. I have no doubt that he will be campaigning vigorously on that point and on the White Paper that my right hon. Friend has recently published on the matter, so that the electorate will have a clear choice. That choice will be in favour of this Government's policies.

Back to