HC Deb 06 July 1999 vol 334 cc808-10
5. Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster)

What the planned level of capital investment in the national health service is over the next three years. [88241]

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

More than £8 billion of capital investment is planned for the national health service over the next three years. Since we won the election, work has begun on 17 major new hospital projects, and more will be announced shortly.

Mr. Darvill

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. The planned investment will go some way towards addressing the chronic lack of capital investment in our precious asset, the national health service. Does the investment to which he referred include the new PFI-funded hospital at Oldchurch Park, Romford, recommended in the Turnberg report? What a wonderful birthday present that would be for my constituents on the 51st anniversary of the national health service.

Mr. Dobson

I do not want to anticipate any announcements that may be made tomorrow, but I think that my hon. Friend's constituency will be getting a birthday present.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

Why do the public think that things in the NHS are not getting any better even after the Government have been in office for two years? Many of the staff in the NHS think that things are getting worse. Is it because, for the first two years, there was no more investment than there was under the Tories? Or is it because the Government are going down the PFI route far more enthusiastically than the Tories ever did, selling off assets in the biggest privatisation in the history of the health service? In the words of the editor of this week's British Medical Journal, the Government are at risk of leaving the NHS as a rump service. Could that be the reason?

Mr. Dobson

The editor of the British Medical Journal is talking just as much claptrap as the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman should be grateful for the amount of capital that the Government have put into the services in his constituency at Guy's and St. Thomas's hospitals, where building works have already started on massive improvements in the services for the people whom he purports to represent. On top of that, we are building a new medical school.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, later today, representatives of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS trust will be talking to the Birmingham group of Labour MPs about its plans and proposals for a new hospital in the south of Birmingham? Does he agree with me that, although the staff at the Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak hospitals provide a first-class service, all too often they work in totally unsatisfactory conditions as a result of neglect during 18 years of Tory rule? There is a serious need to improve the condition of our hospital stock in south Birmingham, so it is important that the current consultation reaches a successful conclusion as quickly as possible.

Mr. Dobson

I agree that it is a disgrace that dedicated professionals in many parts of the national health service are expected to work in deplorable conditions with unreliable equipment that no other professional group would tolerate for five minutes. These problems cannot be put right immediately, but since we got in, we have started on 17 major new hospital projects and more will be announced. We are putting billions of pounds into improving existing hospitals. This year, £350 million is already earmarked for improving equipment, because it is a disgrace that staff constantly have to use equipment that goes on the blink or breaks down because it is out of date. I am glad to say that we shall also be using more than £100 million from the national lottery to provide more reliable and up-to-date equipment for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

In assessing the funds available for capital investment in the next three years, what account has the Secretary of State taken of revenues generated under the Road Traffic (NHS) Charges Act 1999? Is it true that not a penny has so far been handed over? If it is not true, how much has been handed over?

Mr. Dobson

First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new job. He is the fourth shadow Secretary of State for Health that I have faced. Hereinafter we shall refer to him as Liam IV.

Pathetic sums of money were being raised under the arrangements that we inherited from the previous Tory Government. The new system has been in operation for just two months, so we have not yet received the first quarterly report on progress. As Tories ought to know by now, generally speaking, a quarter of a year involves three months.