HC Deb 25 January 1984 vol 52 cc605-6W
Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many health authorities have closed hospitals and wards; how many have postponed developments to help elderly and handicapped since he required them to cut spending; and which health authorities have avoided making any cuts in services to patients, including the elderly and handicapped.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Our Department does not collect detailed information about health authorities' day-to-day management decisions. Nor is it sensible to seek to generalise about the large number of detailed decisions which have to be made as part of the operation of a complex service.

Since 1978–79 we have provided for growth additions to health authority budgets totalling nearly 7 per cent. above the movement in health service pay and prices in the hospital and community health services. Therefore, significantly more money is now available than ever before for provision of health care. We have also set health authorities the tasks of improving efficiency and deploying manpower so as to make every penny count in the care of patients. In a dynamic organisation like the NHS it is to be expected that change includes some closures and reductions as other developments take place, as need for some services is diminished and as services are rationalised. Reductions are greatly outweighed by the changes we have made to improve levels and quality of care to patients.

We know that some of the allegations in recent press reports about decisions in individual health authorities were based on a misreading of the evidence. Contested proposals for permanent closures or major changes of use come to Ministers and we do not consent to changes which do not lead to better use of resources for patient care. The experience of the past five years should not have obliged any well-managed health authority to make unplanned cuts in services specifically for the elderly or for handicapped patients or significantly postpone high priority developments.

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