HC Deb 28 April 1998 vol 311 cc127-9
1. Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

When he will announce the additional individual health authority allocations as outlined in the Budget. [38671]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)

I have announced today each health authority's share of the first £288 million of the extra funds that we have provided to reduce hospital waiting lists this year. Liverpool will get an extra £3,193,000. There is more to come.

Mrs. Ellman

I very much welcome my right hon. Friend's statement about additional funding for Liverpool. Will he confirm that that is in addition to the £11.4 million extra already announced for Liverpool health authority? What steps does he intend to take to ensure that the money provided by the Government is used for the purpose for which it is intended—reducing waiting lists?

Mr. Dobson

I can confirm my hon. and numerate Friend's arithmetic. I am taking steps to ensure that every penny that is earmarked for reducing waiting lists will be spent on that alone.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey)

Every health authority will welcome any additional money, particularly as the Secretary of State has signally failed to use the Red Book figure as the basis for negotiation to deliver an adequate return for the health service. Why does he not support NHS research and development? Why has he reduced the percentage of NHS money going to research and development—reversing the Culyer commitment—when he is proclaiming the importance of evidence-based medicine?

Mr. Dobson

The right hon. Lady will know from the figures that we have published today that my initiative, using the money provided by the Chancellor in the Budget, will give her health authority an extra £3.4 million to reduce waiting lists in her constituency. Our principal target for the moment is to reduce waiting lists. The waiting lists that we inherited were too high.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire)

They are higher now.

Mr. Dobson

They are higher still now, but they will come down. The reduction will be greater than any seen in the history of the national health service, because the money will be spent on what it is intended for.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)

I greatly welcome the additional £3.5 million being allocated to Suffolk health authority, from which my constituents will benefit. I also welcome the announcement that the money will be used to cut waiting lists. How does my right hon. Friend expect the health authority to distribute the money? Will it take into account the length of waiting lists in different parts of the area?

Mr. Dobson

Provided that they reduce waiting lists, I want to leave matters as much as possible to the initiative of those responsible locally. Their targets will be spelled out to them and made public in due course.

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon)

Will the new allocation to Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham health authority remedy the situation of an elderly diabetic and cardiac patient who has contacted me? Last September he was given an appointment to see a diabetes consultant in April. That appointment has been cancelled, and he has been given a new appointment for June. In January he was given an appointment with a cardiac consultant for June—a five-month wait. That has been cancelled and he has been given a new appointment for October. Why should he have any confidence in the Secretary of State's stewardship of the NHS?

Mr. Dobson

If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise individual cases with me, I am prepared to take them up and pursue them. If he is asking what Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham is getting of the new money allocated to reduce waiting lists, I can tell him that it is £5.6 million. I think that that is a substantial sum. If the hon. Gentleman is going for specific cases, I can tell him that his health authority, Warwickshire, will be getting £2.8 million from the new allocation.

Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk)

I know that the more than £2.2 million allocated to my constituency will be particularly welcome. Given that my right hon. Friend has said that we will be told the targets, and given that he has, I believe, said that money that is being held back will in due course be distributed, will he say on what grounds extra funding will be provided? I would certainly like to get on to my health authority to ensure that it meets the targets.

Mr. Dobson

The initial share is simply intended directly to increase the number of operations. Some of the remaining money—more than £100 million—will be held back so that it can be used to make improvements in primary care, mental health or community services that would indirectly lead to a reduction in waiting lists. Various health authorities and trusts will be invited to say how much of that money they would like and how they intend to spend it.

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