HC Deb 02 May 2000 vol 349 cc11-2
6. Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)

What plans he has to review the formula for distribution of funding between health regions and individual health authorities to take account of the impact of poverty on health. [119059]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)

On 24 March 1999, my right hon. Friend asked the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation to undertake a wide-ranging review of national health service resource allocation.

The review of the formula will ensure that the health care needs of populations, including the impact of deprivation, will be the driving force in determining future health allocations. We want a fairer formula that contributes to our goal of reducing health inequalities.

Mr. Lloyd

I think that it is common knowledge that people in constituencies and cities such as mine are among the poorest in the country. As a result, they live shorter lives, which are punctuated by more frequent episodes of ill health. Does my hon. Friend agree that the last thing that my constituents need is another Conservative Government, who would widen the gap between the poor and the better off, and would ask my poor constituents to pay for health care? Does he agree also that the time for redistribution to ensure that health funding matches health need is now, when the Government are putting record sums of money into the health service? That process would make things much easier for everybody else.

Mr. Hutton

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. There is little doubt that it would be a disaster for the people of Manchester if the Conservatives were ever returned to office to implement the policies that they are proposing for the national health service. We should not forget that the Tories found it impossible to use the two words "health inequalities". We recognise that there are serious health inequalities in our society, which continue to scar communities throughout the country, including those in Manchester. My hon. Friend will be aware that, thanks to the measures that we have taken this year, an additional £30 million is going into the NHS in Manchester. In addition, Manchester is a health action zone, which is being supported by nearly £12 million of additional resources. His constituents face serious challenges. We are determined to rise to them, but the Conservative party would not.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Does the Minister appreciate that some of the longest waiting lists are in Surrey, where the length of the waiting lists has led to the effective dismissal of the chief executive of the East Surrey hospital for her political failure to meet, within the resources made available to her, the political targets imposed on her? When reconsidering the formula, should the Minister not bear in mind that the effective increase in Surrey will be less than 2 per cent. in real terms? Therefore, there is no confidence in Surrey that the money made available to Isobel Gowan's successor as chief executive will be sufficient for him to be able to carry out the task that the Government have set him.

Mr. Hutton

The hon. Gentleman usually does his homework meticulously, but I am afraid that he has not done so on this occasion, if he wants to check allocations to the East Surrey health authority for this year, he will find that it will have a cash increase of 8.26 per cent., which is a real-terms increase of 5.62 per cent. Uncharacteristically, he is quite wrong about these matters. This Government, unlike the one whom he supported, are determined to ensure that we have a genuine national health service that provides high-quality care right across the country. That, I am afraid, was not the legacy that we inherited from the previous Administration.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are inequalities in health care not only in inner cities, but in constituencies such as mine where people in wards such as Bewsey, Poplars and Hulme suffer much higher rates of debilitating long-term illnesses than the areas that surround them? Will he also bear in mind that people in such wards have never been able to buy private health care because they simply could not afford to? That is why the private wing in the grounds of Warrington hospital went bust. When he considers future allocations, will he ensure that the areas that I have mentioned receive their fair share of resources, which they were denied during 18 years of Tory Government? Will he look favourably on the application of Warrington hospital to use the Daresbury wing to provide orthopaedic facilities for all the people of Warrington and not just for those who can afford to pay for them?

Mr. Hutton

We shall certainly consider that, and I agree with my hon. Friend about many of the points that she made. I tried to emphasise that we want a system that guarantees fairer funding right across the national health service, which was not the case with the arrangements left in place by the previous Administration. She is right to draw attention to deprivation and health inequalities in her constituency and such problems are found all over the country. Unlike our predecessors, we are determined to ensure that the NHS provides high-quality care and improves at a faster rate the health of those who live in the poorest and most deprived parts of the country.