HC Deb 07 July 2004 vol 423 cc824-6
4. Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con)

When he last discussed with his Cabinet and Welsh Assembly colleagues the per capita level of health spending in Wales. [181915]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

I regularly meet the Assembly First Minister and the health service in Wales is one of the topics that we frequently discuss.

Mr. Turner

As the Secretary of State will know, expenditure per head in Wales is 9 per cent. above that in England, yet there are worse health outcomes in Newport, Monmouthshire than in Newport, Isle of Wight. Is that because the number of administrators has increased by 15 per cent. since 1996?

Mr. Hain

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's comparison. In fact, under the Welsh Assembly Government, many more nurses have been recruited. Indeed, there are 4,061 more qualified nurses and 305 more qualified equivalent consultants under Labour, after years of cuts that involved hospital closures, the sacking of nurses and doctors and a decrease in hospital beds under the Conservatives. Wales is moving forward under Labour with increased health investment and more treatment for the patients of Wales.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

Is not health spending per head one of the silliest ways of measuring health spending? Should not health spending match health need? In the words of Matthew, one of the children in the House today from Llwyncelyn primary school, "Can we have more money for the hospital in Llwynypia?"

Mr. Hain

I am sure that the Minister with responsibility for health in Wales will look seriously at Matthew's bid, transmitted through my hon. Friend, but the truth is that, whether in his constituency or across Wales, there has been a massive increase—a near doubling—of the Welsh health budget under Labour after years of Conservative cuts. If the Conservatives won the next general election, the result of their patients passport policy would be an immediate cut of £60 million in the Welsh health budget. That would mean either 2,400 nurses or 660 consultants losing their jobs. What a dreadful policy to inflict on the people of Wales.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con)

Despite the extra health spending, does the Secretary of State agree with the First Minister that choice in the NHS is not relevant in Wales?

Mr. Hain

The real choice for the people of Wales is between Tory cuts, privatisation and charges and Labour investment, resulting in more nurses and doctors, more facilities and more patients being seen. About 250,000 more patients are being seen in Wales under the Labour Government. That is a fantastic record compared with a miserable Tory record.

Mr. Wiggin

Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain why the number of finished consultancy episodes has decreased by 1 per cent. since 1999.

Mr. Hain

It is time that the hon. Gentleman asked some sensible questions at Welsh questions—questions with some relevance to the people of Wales. The fact is that, under the Labour Government, we have seen nursing and midwifery places increase by 25 per cent. compared with the Tory policy of cutting them by 25 per cent. We have seen a doubling of investment in the NHS in Wales and, as I have said, waiting times for key procedures coming down. Ten new hospitals have been pledged and some are already open. That is a really good record. Of course there is room for improvement and the policy will be driven forward.

Mr. Wiggin

If the record is so good, why have waiting lists increased by 82 per cent. since 1999?

Mr. Hain

The truth is that 250,000 more patients have been seen in Wales under Labour than was the case under the Tories. If we set that against the background of a population of 3 million, that is an extraordinary achievement. It has been built on the back of record investment, and the recruitment of more nurses and doctors compared with the Tory programme of cuts, privatisation and charges. That is what the people of Wales would get if the Tories won the next election.

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)

As my right hon. Friend will know, in Blaenau Gwent we have some of the worst health problems in Wales, including heart and respiratory diseases, lung cancer and mental health problems. At the same time, we have difficulty in attracting the appropriate number of doctors to the community. Will he say what is being done to rectify that wrong?

Mr. Hain

Under this Labour Government, health services in Blaenau Gwent and elsewhere in Wales have improved. My hon. Friend has been a consistent champion for his constituency, which is one of the poorest parts of Wales, and we obviously need even more improvement. That will be achieved in future years, and I hope that he will continue to support it.

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