HC Deb 23 February 1999 vol 326 cc164-5
3. Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston)

If he will make a statement about the Government's plans for providing improved health care for the citizens of Glasgow. [70821]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Sam Galbraith)

The White Paper "Designed to Care" set out the Government's vision for a renewed and better health service in Scotland. Total Government expenditure on health in Glasgow this year has been almost £1 billion. Since we took office, we have announced extra capital of £52 million for a new maternity hospital, a plastic surgery and burns unit and an emergency receiving centre at Glasgow royal infirmary; £10 million capital for a new radiotherapy facility at Gartnavel hospital; £6.2 million to tackle waiting times and £4.7 million to tackle peak admissions over the winter. From 1 July, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Marshall

In thanking my hon. Friend the Minister for that reply, I recall that I have raised this important matter with him at previous Scottish Question Times. I congratulate him on his splendid efforts to tackle the horrific health legacy that he inherited after 18 years of terrible Tory government. However, will my hon. Friend guarantee that the twin evils of poverty and unemployment are taken properly into account when the tremendous inequalities in health that exist in the city of Glasgow, compared with the rest of Scotland and with the United Kingdom as a whole, are tackled?

Mr. Galbraith

I can give my hon. Friend that absolute assurance. One of the first things that I did when I took over responsibility for the health service in Scotland was to charge it with a new priority to deal with inequalities in health, in terms of both provision and access. As my hon. Friend will know, the White Paper on Scotland's public health recognises for the first time the link between inequality, deprivation and ill health. It proposes specific measures for tackling that problem, the most important of which is the investment of £2.6 billion to change people's life circumstances, such as their lack of jobs and education, and their poor housing and environment. Once that change is in place, we can affect people's life styles and build a healthier Scotland for everyone, and especially for people in deprived areas.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

Some £45 million has so far been spent by the Government to reduce the absolute numbers on waiting lists in Scotland. However, will the Minister explain why, in my native city of Glasgow—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I was born in Glasgow and lived there until I was 21. It is very much my native city and, like the Secretary of State, I am a graduate of Glasgow university. Will the Minister explain why, when he came to power, only one person on the waiting list in Glasgow was waiting longer than 12 months, whereas, after a year, there were 348 people on the waiting list?

Mr. Galbraith

The hon. Gentleman clearly does not keep himself up to date. For the past three quarters, no one on the waiting list has been waiting for more than 12 months. He will also be aware that waiting lists in Scotland now total 78,500 people. That total is significantly lower than what we inherited and is the lowest this decade.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the health problems facing the citizens of Glasgow is the high incidence of dental decay, especially among young children, in the most deprived areas of the city? Does he also agree that the best way to solve the problem is to ensure the proper supply of fluoride in the public water system?

Mr. Galbraith

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter again. My answer remains the same as that which I have given him previously, and the matter is also dealt with in the White Paper. There are three ways to improve the nation's dental health: although people should reduce their sugar consumption and brush regularly, the most significant factor is to fluoridation of the water.