HC Deb 29 March 2001 vol 365 cc1098-100
7. Angela Smith (Basildon)

if he will make a statement on his plans for future investment in the health service. [154602]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Andrew Smith)

The Government are providing by far the biggest, most sustained growth in NHS resources in the history of the service. Taken together, the Chancellor's Budget and spending review plans provide for real-terms growth in NHS expenditure of 6.4 per cent, 5.2 per cent. and 5.4 per cent. over the next three years, compared with an average of 3.3 per cent. average annual real growth since the foundation of the NHS and only 3 per cent. annual real growth between 1978-79 and 1996-97.

Angela Smith

At Basildon hospital, we are now seeing the effects of that, with three new wards, new theatres and a new breast cancer unit currently being built. However, we still face long delays for treatment after admission through accident and emergency. Those problems occurred in the past because of lack of investment in the future. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that we will have long-term sustained investment, because only if the public sector and the health service have confidence in the Government's continuing support can they plan their investment for the future?

Mr. Smith

Yes, indeed. It is because of that record increase in resources that the Chancellor has been able to announce that we are to modernise every accident and emergency unit in the country that needs it. Moreover, thanks to the resources that we are providing, the staff will be there to meet the patients care needs, with the recruitment over the next three years of 7,500 extra consultants, 2,000 extra GPs, 20,000 nurses and 6,500 therapists and other health professionals.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Yesterday, in a shameless piece of cynical electioneering, the Health Secretary suspended the transfer of accident and emergency and paediatric services from Crawley hospital to East Surrey hospital in Redhill in my constituency, at the request of the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt)—a decision that he would not have been able to make in a week's time if we were in an election campaign, because it is politically controversial. The decision will cost the local health care trust money because of the delayed accrual of savings from the concentration of services. Will the Chief Secretary undertake to repay that money?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman will know that, as a consequence of the Chancellor's Budget announcements, extra money is going directly to every acute trust in the country. That will benefit his constituents as much as anyone else's.

Mr. Phil Hope (Corby)

Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the investment will be in primary care as well as acute care? We all recognise the need for investment in hospitals, but it is vital also to invest in GPs and care-at-home services in the community. Can he also settle the debate that has been raging on these Back Benches over the past half hour: is the right hon. Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Mr. Portillo) Mr. Boom or Mr. Bust?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is quite right about the importance of primary care and the contribution it makes both to the quality of service to patients and to achieving better health outcomes. That is why, as the Prime Minister recently announced. 3,000 GP premises are to be modernised over the next three years and 500 new one-stop primary care centres are to be completed by 2004. With the recruitment of 2,000 extra GPs and other health professionals, that will enable us to continue the progress that we are already making in substantially raising standards of care, increasing the rapidity of treatment and cutting waiting lists.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)

Will the Chief Secretary now admit that, whatever his future plans for NHS investment may be, in this Parliament his record is even worse than the Conservatives' record in the previous Parliament? Does he not realise that that poor record on NHS spending means that in my constituency there are severe shortages of nurses, bio-medical staff and doctors, and we have long and rising out-patient waiting lists? Will he not admit that, as a proportion of national income, average spending on the NHS in this Parliament is even lower than in the previous Parliament?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman's figures are nonsense. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are your figures."] He would do well to remember that at the last general election the Liberal Democrats promised to increase health spending by a total of £3.5 billion across the Parliament, whereas this Government are increasing health spending by more than £5 billion, year on year. As for shares of GDP, when the previous Administration left office 5.7 per cent. of GDP was spent on health; this year the figure is 6.2 per cent.

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