HC Deb 24 February 1998 vol 307 cc169-70
16. Mr. Stinchcombe

What action he is taking to promote the development of primary care. [29330]

Mr. Dobson

The White Paper "The New NHS" sets out our approach to modernising the national health service and providing integrated primary and community health care services. It will be done through the establishment of primary care groups and ultimately primary care trusts. The establishment of the primary care groups will build on other policies that we have already implemented, such as the National Health Service (Primary Care) Act 1997, personal medical services pilots, the salaried doctors scheme and other local pilots. We shall introduce schemes only when they have been tried and tested.

Mr. Stinchcombe

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his policies are warmly welcomed by the doctors and nurses in my constituency, but that they also seek reassurances? In particular, they want a package of incentives to reward them adequately for the extra work that they will be asked to undertake.

Mr. Dobson

There will be such incentives. Knowing the professionalism of the doctors, nurses and other staff involved, the greatest incentive will be that the policies will lead to a better health service, for which they have all been hoping and working for years.

Rev. Martin Smyth

The Secretary of State will have heard the concerns that have been expressed about social care. Is he happy with the links between health professionals and social care workers in dealing with the scourge of child abuse? Are there enough social workers to deal with the problem?

Mr. Dobson

The Utting committee reported to me before Christmas with proposals to deal with the abuse of children living away from home. The record is disgraceful. We intend to change the arrangements to ensure that the situation improves. It is staggering that, although the number of young people in care—as it is fondly called—represents only a small proportion of the population, 22 per cent. of the prison population was previously in care. That does not say a lot for the care.

Mr. Lansley

When the Secretary of State comes to designate primary care commissioning pilots, will he ensure variety—not just geographical variety, but a variety of approaches to primary care commissioning? Will he also ensure that larger fundholding practices that feel capable of being primary care commissioning groups are offered opportunities to bid for pilot schemes? When will the Secretary of State seek a debate in the House on the NHS White Paper?

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. The idea of the pilot schemes is to test different approaches. There is no point in having 30 identical pilot schemes. We want a variety of approaches, some of which include the enthusiastic involvement of fundholding doctors. We shall see what works and what does not. I shall say now so that no one can accuse me of not saying it in advance that some of the pilot schemes will almost certainly prove not to be successful. That is why we are having pilot schemes—to find out what works and what does not.