§ 7. Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk)
If he will make a statement on the number of finished consultant episodes in the NHS in England in each of the last four years. 
§ The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton)
The number of finished consultant episodes in the national health service in England increased from 11.6 million in 1997–98 to 12.4 million in 2001–02. For 2002–03, hospital in-patient activity is expected to increase by a further 4.5 per cent, and outpatient activity by a further 2.5 per cent.
§ Mr. Bacon
I thank the Minister for his answer, although I note that he did not give a figure for finished consultant episodes for the coming year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State have made it clear—[Interruption.] The Minister gave a figure for elective admissions, where there has been a 4.5 per cent. increase, but did not give a figure for finished consultant episodes. The Secretary of State and the Chancellor have made it clear that increased reform in the NHS must accompany increased spending, yet we have all seen in our constituency surgeries that spending does not appear to result in our constituents having fewer problems with the NHS. If anything, the situation is getting worse. Can the Minister tell us when he expects increased spending in the NHS to be matched by increased activity?
§ Mr. Hutton
I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman clearly does not understand what he is talking about. 140 The figures that I quoted to him are for finished consultant episodes in the years for which the information is available. I cannot give a figure for the number of finished consultant episodes for this year, because this year has not ended yet. The information is historical, not prospective. The hon. Gentleman asked when the additional investment in the national health service would produce additional activity. It is already doing so. For example, it has helped us to recruit an extra 5,500 consultants for the NHS, almost 50,000 additional doctors and almost 8,500 additional allied health professional therapists. The NHS is busier than it has ever been before. If the hon. Gentleman wanted any confirmation of that, he would just need to ask his local NHS staff, who would tell him that the NHS has never been busier.
§ Hugh Bayley (City of York)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the number of finished consultant episodes—that is, the number of patients treated—at York district hospital has increased over the past four years by 11 per cent., and that in some specialties—in general medicine, for instance—the number of finished consultant episodes has increased by 34 per cent.? Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the York health trust on its achievement? Does he agree that if the Conservative party were ever in a position to implement its cuts—
§ Mr. Hutton
I join my hon. Friend in warmly congratulating the staff in York on the excellent job that they are doing. He, like me, would probably have concluded from these and earlier exchanges that there are some people who want to talk down the national health service, as a cloak for a broader attempt to undermine the NHS and replace it with private provision and top-up vouchers—something that the Labour Government will never do.
§ Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)
Given that we need more operations than we have at present to clear the backlog, can the Minister explain why the Government have decided to spend so much extra on administration, rather than on front-line care, so that there are now more administrators than beds? Is that not a strange choice?
§ Mr. Hutton
That is a hackneyed and well-worn contribution, and is simply not true. The right hon. Gentleman reaches that conclusion only by counting cooks, cleaners and porters as managers and administrators. Anyone with common sense—I am afraid that that excludes the right hon. Gentleman—would know what a load of nonsense that equation was.