HC Deb 30 June 1998 vol 315 cc141-2
8. Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

What targets he has set for reduction in NHS management costs by 2002. [46608]

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

Our White Paper, "The new NHS", sets out a programme of action to release £1 billion from bureaucracy over five years. By the end of this year, £240 million that, under the Tories, would have been spent on bureaucracy, will have been released for patient care, which is what the people of this country want.

Ms Stuart

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in the first year of the Labour Government, my health authority, Birmingham, received an extra £201,000 to improve breast cancer treatment, and £219,000 to improve intensive care for children? Can he confirm that that money was available not least because of his decision to halt the eighth wave of GP fundholding? Can I have some reassurance that the Labour Government's commitment to primary health groups will not introduce a new bureaucracy, but will be part of a continued commitment to fund money into patient care, not into bureaucracy?

Mr. Dobson

It is certainly the case that primary care groups will reduce the amount of money spent on the paperwork of transactions between primary care and hospitals, and that the previous Government had earmarked £20 million to be spent simply on the paperwork of the eighth wave of fundholding. We stopped that, and £10 million went to better breast cancer services and £5 million to improving children's intensive care. I am sure that, apart from a few witless loons on the Conservative Benches, everyone in the country thinks that that is right.

Mr. Shaun Woodward (Witney)

While the Secretary of State remains concerned about targets, he will be aware that hospitals up and down the country face closure. In my constituency, we have three community hospitals: Burford faces the certainty of closure, Witney faces the closure of 25 per cent. of its beds, and Chipping Norton will lose beds too, yet all have an occupancy rate of more than 90 per cent. The hon. Gentleman knows that Oxfordshire community health council has decided to refer to him the absurd proposals for closures and bed cutting that have been put forward by the community health trust because of his failure to supply enough money. Will he guarantee the people of west Oxfordshire that he will save Burford hospital from closure, and save the beds that are due to close at Witney hospital?

Mr. Dobson

I cannot offer any such guarantees at the Dispatch Box. As Conservative Members who still have fading memories of being in government may recall, it is proper for me to comment in detail on proposals that come before me only after I have considered all the detailed information. Otherwise, any decision that I made could be challenged in the courts. The Government have put £2 billion extra into the NHS, over and above what the Tories had put into the budget for last year and this year—£2 billion more than they had intended to spend, and £1 billion more than the Liberal Democrats promised to spend.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre)

What scrutiny is my right hon. Friend giving to the pioneering effort across Morecambe Bay acute health trusts and Morecambe Bay community health trust in order to develop services across a wide area, and to cut the ludicrous bureaucratic costs inflicted on us by the previous Government? While I am on my foot, will he commend the sterling work of the accident and emergency department at the Royal Lancaster infirmary and look into giving the nurses more pay?

Mr. Dobson

I pay tribute to all the work that is being done in the Morecambe bay area. By amalgamating four trusts, we are saving a huge amount in bureaucratic costs. That money will now be better spent on patient care, which is what people in the Morecambe bay area want.

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