HL Deb 05 February 1996 vol 569 cc3-5

2.43 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

The number of patients currently being treated for AIDS, the average cost per patient for hospital treatment, and whether the cost per patient varies from hospital to hospital.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege)

My Lords, the number of people being treated for AIDS in the United Kingdom in 1994 was around 4,000. The annual average cost of hospital treatment for an AIDS patient is in the region of £21,000 and costs vary from hospital to hospital.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is she aware of the concern about this year's change in the method of funding AIDS treatment clinics, which until now has been ring-fenced? In view of the health service principle of the money following the patient, will she consider reassessing the situation at the end of the year to discover whether the money for treating AIDS cases went where the patients were treated?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, yes. The money that is given to regions by the department takes into account the caseloads for HIV and AIDS within each region. Regions then take into account the treatment centres when allocating their funding. However, the formula is not so fine-tuned that the money to regions is exactly related to patient workloads. We expect regions to take that into account when considering the trusts which run the centres.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, while the latest PHLS report is welcome news, projecting a declining trend in new AIDS cases from 1999, for which everyone concerned—the Government, the voluntary sector and the medical profession—deserves congratulation, will the Minister accept that the total caseload, even in the revised projections, is forecast to rise from 3,485 in 1995 to 3,690 in 1996 (approximately 200 additional cases) and to continue that upward trend for the next three years? In those circumstances, will the Minister assure us that that trend will be taken into account when the Government make their cost calculations for the treatment and care of AIDS?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, yes, I can give that assurance. In fact, the trend is likely not to rise by 10 per cent. but to reduce by 10 per cent. according to the predictions. The funding in real terms is reduced by 7.7 per cent. so there is a margin for health authorities.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, my noble friend said that the costing appeared to be falling. Can she say whether the number of new AIDS cases that are reported in this country is on the increase or on the decrease?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, it is on the increase. If one looks at specific groups, such as men who have sex with men or bisexual men, the numbers are decreasing. However, the numbers in other groups, such as drug users, are increasing.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, the Minister has given some remarkable details today. However, will the Government consider issuing more information in order to warn people of the danger of AIDS and the fact that there are measures which can be taken to stop them catching this awful disease?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, three national campaigns are being run at the moment. The first is targeted at young people, the second at gay and bisexual men and the third at holidaymakers. In addition, a great deal of work is going on locally through health promotion departments.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, in a recent answer given to my noble friend Lady Jay the Minister said that the total amount spent on AIDS patients by the National Health Service was £236 million a year. That does Not appear to tie up with the figure of £21,000 per patient that the Minister has given today because the total amounts to £84 million. Will the Minister explain the discrepancy?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the AIDS budgets are made up of a number of different factors. There is the national aids public campaign, the health authorities' money for treatment and care and for health promotion, and there is also money to voluntary organisations and local authorities. All that amounts to £281 million this year.

Baroness O'Cathain

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that much of the money is spent on research? A document published last year by the Institute of Economic Affairs Limited pointed out that for every person who dies of heart disease in this country the research funds amount to £51 and for every person who dies of AIDS in this country the research funds amount to £285,000.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the research funds for coronary heart disease are considerable because they are made up of money from all kinds of different charities and other organisations. However, the money spent on AIDS must come from the Government because no charities or other organisations contribute to it.

Lord Rea

My Lords, the Minister confirmed that the funding allocated to the treatment of AIDS will fall by 7.7 per cent in the coming financial year. That confirms the figure given by the Providers of AIDS Care and Treatment. In view of the fact that the number of AIDS cases does not appear to be declining and will not decline for the next three years and that the preventive treatment for AIDS is becoming more complex and expensive, how can the Minister justify that reduction in funding?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, as I tried to explain, the reduction in funding is less than the reduction in predicted numbers.