HC Deb 16 December 1980 vol 996 cc132-3
6. Mr. Newens

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he is taking to ensure that additional funds are made available to provide geriatric and psychogeriatric hospital beds in areas in which the numbers of elderly people are increasing at a significant rate.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Sir George Young)

My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 24 November our plans for increased spending on the NHS in 1981–82. These take account of population changes nationally, in particular the rising number of elderly people—factors which are also taken into account in allocating resources to health authorities. It is for regional and area authorities to decide how much to spend on individual services in accordance with local needs and priorities.

Mr. Newens

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the number of cases of old people in desperate need of a hospital bed who are now being refused admittance is growing steadily in many parts of the country? Is he further aware that the Harlow area needs immediately at least 60 more psychogeriatric beds and 80 more geriatric beds to meet the need? Is it not a disgrace if old, sick people are refused admittance to hospital and left at home to die?

Sir George Young

I estimate that about 0.7 per cent. growth is required each year in the Health Service budget to cater for demographic changes, including the needs of the elderly. Next year we are planning to spend a 1¼per cent. increase. With regard to the specific problems in Harlow, I understand that a start is being made by the area health authority to tackle these needs and that at Honey Lane hospital, Waltham Abbey, work on upgrading a ward is nearly completed. The area health authority has identified three other schemes which are required and which, if implemented, would make a start on tackling the needs which the hon. Gentleman describes.

Sir David Price

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is clearly a growing problem with an ageing population? Does he agree that an important role is played by joint funding between the NHS and the local authority in ensuring that more people on the margin of hospitalisation remain in the community? It is important to make progress in this sphere.

Sir George Young

I endorse what my hon. Friend says. That is why we have increased by 16 per cent. in real terms the budget for joint funding this year.

Mr. Ennals

Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that, as a result of the cuts in the social services and especially the domiciliary services and part III accommodation for elderly people, the pressure created by elderly people on the National Health Service will inevitably grow? Will he give some help, in terms of either additional funds or additional beds, to cope with this serious problem that concerns my constitutency and, I believe, every constituency?

Sir George Young

I do not accept the premise from which the right hon. Gentleman started. All our information from local government indicates that expenditure on social services this year is higher than last year.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Will the hon. Gentleman consider another aspect of the problem? Will he consider providing more resources for geriatric rehabilitation? Will he encourage doctors to take up this area of study and bring the elderly hack into the community to make better use of existing resources?

Sir George Young

I hope that this is one of the subjects that might be mentioned in the White Paper on the elderly that we hope to publish early next year.