HC Deb 30 March 1999 vol 328 cc843-5
3. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South)

What analysis he has made of the impact on employment in the NHS of his accident and emergency modernisation schemes. [77700]

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

Altogether, £100 million extra will be invested over the coming year in modernising accident and emergency departments. That will be better for patients and staff; it will also help to retain and create jobs. The recent investment of more than £1 million in modernising the accident and emergency department at the Queen Alexandra hospital in Portsmouth provided orders for more than 20 firms from all parts of the country. Rule of thumb suggests that the £100 million investment will provide 100 times as many orders, and that 100 times as many jobs will flow from them.

Mr. Cunningham

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on one of the biggest hospital development programmes in history, with 31 new hospital developments worth more than £2 billion? Will he publish a list of the companies involved, and the jobs created as a result of that new development?

Mr. Dobson

Yes, I will. As I have pointed out, more than 20 firms received orders for £1 million worth of improvements in Portsmouth. The developments in some parts of the country—at the Norfolk and Norwich, for example, where the total cost of the hospital is £160 million—will result in huge orders being placed all over the country. That is part of our policy not only to benefit the patients and hard-working staff of the health service, but to create jobs all over the country.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

The Secretary of State will know that some people being treated in accident and emergency units have to go into an intensive care unit because of the severity of their injuries. He will also know that the director of the ICU at Bedford hospital wrote to him six months ago complaining about the fact that he had had to turn away 58 patients because he did not have enough beds. Why has the Secretary of State not yet replied?

Mr. Dobson

Because I went there and spoke to him.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (Telford)

From among the many advisers and specialists that my right hon. Friend talks to in the Department of Health, has he yet received any clinical explanation for the fact that, whenever he gives us good news about the national health service, Opposition Members look depressed?

Mr. Dobson

They look depressed today because we can announce that waiting lists in February fell by 39,000, taking the figure 38,000 below the one that we inherited. Over the past year, more than 450,000 extra operations have been carried out. [Interruption.] It is no good idiots opposite talking about fiddling—

Madam Speaker

Order. I am sure that such language is not necessary. The Secretary of State knows what "Erskine May" says about good parliamentary language.

Mr. Dobson

I withdraw the word "idiots", and replace it with "Tories", Madam Speaker.

The Tories mock the performance of people in the health service. Nurses, doctors and other professionals put in a huge amount of work to deliver operations to 450,000 more people in the current year, and they will go on doing so. They will bring the waiting lists down, deal with more out-patients and with more accident and emergency cases. There has been no fiddling; the figures have been produced on exactly the same basis as under the previous Government.