§ The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)
Since 1 May, the new Government, as part of their commitment to establishing a reliable and modern health service, have provided an additional £1.5 billion to the national health service—an extra £1.2 billion for next year and an extra £300 million for this winter. In the Trent region, £16 million extra has been provided for this winter to help with emergencies and restrain the rise in waiting lists.
§ Mr. Todd
I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer, which will be welcome in my constituency. I hope that it will be possible to provide a breakdown of that expenditure to health authority level in the near future. Is my right hon. Friend aware that I met representatives of my local health authority shortly before his very welcome announcement and that they expressed concern about the mounting crisis this winter? I am sure that the money will be very well spent in our area.
§ Mr. Dobson
I can assure my hon. Friend that we will publish a detailed breakdown of the extra £16 million that is being provided to help the health service in the Trent region this winter. It is intended to help with emergencies and to finance local social services in taking steps to prevent old people from having to go into hospital unnecessarily and to take people out of hospital when, from their point of view and everyone else's, they are better off at home.
§ Jane Griffiths
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the announcement of the allocation of £73 million for the consolidation of the Royal Berkshire and Battle hospitals in my constituency—a project that 692 was first discussed 67 years ago and on which almost nothing has been done for the past 18 years because of Tory inaction?
§ Mr. Dobson
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We very much welcome the commitment to the new hospital for Reading that has just been announced and the new hospital for Sheffield that was announced last week in addition to the 15 new hospital projects that we announced under the private finance initiative that we inherited from the previous Government. All they did was keep announcing that they would build new hospitals, but they never actually got around to it.
§ Mr. Hogg
Does the Secretary of State accept that, within the Trent region, there is particular concern about Grantham hospital because of the proposals by Lincolnshire health authority that will have a damaging effect on the paediatric department and other departments in that hospital? My hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) is particularly concerned about the matter. Does the Secretary of State accept that, should an appeal to him be successful, he may have to make additional funds available to Grantham hospital? Will he please make a reservation in his own mind now against that possibility?
§ Mr. Dobson
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made representations about Grantham hospital, as has the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). I understand that the proposal will be passed to me by the people whom his Government appointed to run Lincolnshire health authority. I await the opportunity to adjudicate on their ideas.
§ Mr. Quentin Davies
The Secretary of State is wrong, because the chief executive of Lincolnshire health authority, whom the previous Government appointed, is now—I am glad to say—leaving his post, and is being replaced by Mr. Jeavons, a new appointee by the present Government.
May I reinforce the points already made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), because it is important that the future of the Grantham hospital is considered as a whole? We do not want decisions on individual units—in this case, the paediatric unit—to prejudice future decisions about other elements of the hospital. I therefore ask the Secretary of State to turn down the request to close the paediatric ward at Grantham hospital, pending consultation on the future of all the units, including paediatrics, gynaecology, obstetrics and accident and emergency. The future of Grantham as a general hospital is at stake.
§ Mr. Dobson
The first requirement is that the interests of the people presently served by Grantham hospital should continue to be served, and that they have a modern and reliable health service to deliver the health care that they want. However, that has to be considered in the light of the other obligations on the rest of the health service in Lincolnshire; as I understand it, that is the proposition that will eventually come to me. I thank the hon. Gentleman for welcoming one of the changes that Labour is making in the membership of health authorities and 693 trusts. In view of some ignorant suggestions, I am always glad to welcome congratulations from the Opposition on the improvement in personnel that we are making.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall
I also thank my right hon. Friend for the additional financial resources that will come to Leicestershire this year and next. Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that, in the review of the formulae for distributing the funds nationally, he will ensure that underfunded areas such as Leicestershire receive their due reward in coming years?
§ Mr. Dobson
I can make two clear points. First, the allocation that we have recently announced better reflects clinical need and deprivation than did the formulae used by the previous Government. Secondly, and contrary to much scaremongering by Opposition Members, the new formulae involve an element of rurality, so that areas with sparser populations do not suffer. I realise that that does not apply to the city of Leicester, but I expect that Leicester will benefit from the changes that I have mentioned.