§ 14. Mr. John Evans
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with the number of pay beds in the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
We have just issued a consultative letter on our proposals for legislation on independent hospital practice and on the future of pay beds, and a copy was placed in the Library yesterday.
§ Mr. Evans
Is the Secretary of State aware that many people regard the proposals that he announced yesterday as passing the buck from the Government down to the areas, and that the hospital unions are utterly opposed to the phasing out of the NHS boards? What criteria does the right hon. Gentleman intend to use to solve the many disputes which are bound to break out at local level about the phasing out of pay beds?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I know, from my discussions with the leaders of the NHS unions, that the overwhelming majority of the members of those unions believe in our democratic process and in the fact of the election, when the Conservative Party was elected on a clear and specific commitment in our manifesto. There has never been any secret about that. I believe that overwhelmingly the unions working in the NHS will recognise that this is a policy which is to be carried forward and that they will co-operate with it.
§ Mr. Paul Dean
I welcome my right hon. Friend's paper. Can he give an assurance that he will look for a variety of ways of building bridges between the NHS and the private sector, in order to ensure that more resources are available for health as a whole?
§ Mr. Jenkin
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. We believe in co-operation and not in confrontation.
§ Mr. Moyle
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Opposition will oppose his plans for abolishing the NHS boards on the ground that a health service should be provided on the basis of medical priority and not on the power of the purse? Is he also aware that decisions on pay beds should be taken nationally, and that we oppose the idea that the matter should be left to local decision? What the right hon. Gentleman is trying to do is to force on reluctant area health authorities the courage of his convictions.
§ Mr. Jenkin
We recognise that it is the right hon. Gentleman's right to oppose the legislation that we hope to introduce later in the year. As for local determination, we believe that there is likely to be a much better resolution of such problems as may arise if they are handled by the people who are dealing with them locally on the ground rather than that 279 they should be dealt with at head office, as it were, somewhere in London.