§ 7. Mr. Ernie Ross
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many representations he has received expressing support for his review of the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Michael Forsyth
Most submissions on the White Paper "Working for Patients" have shown strong support for certain proposals and have questioned others.
§ Mr. Ross
That reply beggars belief. The Minister must concede that there is hardly anyone on whom he can call for support. According to a recent Gallup poll, not even the Conservative party supports what he is doing to the National Health Service. Is it not about time that he withdrew this nonsensical review—at least in respect of Scotland—and got down to serious discussions with people in the Health Service about trying to create a better service rather than trying to fragment it?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I beg to differ with the hon. Gentleman. Even the British Medical Association supports our proposals for a medical audit, money following patients and resource management. As for the public and those who depend on the Health Service as a whole, there is widespread support for our measures to reduce waiting lists, to ensure that people are given appointments on which they can rely and that they see a consultant, to make it easier for patients to change doctors and to extend patient choice.
295 The opinion poll to which the hon. Gentleman referred represents a public view on the White Paper as presented by the BMA and the Government's opponents, which is a long way from any proposals that we have presented. If the hon. Gentleman has studied the poll and our proposals, he will know that the Government have no intention of privatising the National Health Service.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh
Will the Minister acknowledge that there has been massive and united opposition to his proposals from general practitioners in my constituency, who are against the proposal to create a poorer and less effective National Health Service? When will he start to acknowledge that there is massive public disapproval of his plans, as well as professional disapproval? This is a democracy. When will the Minister stop dictating to the people and start to understand what they are saying and do something about it?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has a word with some of the GPs in Angus district. One GP who has come forward as a volunteer to run a pilot scheme —[Interruption.] Opposition Members should not mock. The BMA itself suggested that pilot schemes would be a good idea. That GP, who came into my office to volunteer as a result of representations by my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), practises in Angus. He believes that his proposals will result in better services for the patients on his list, and we shall see if we are able to take them forward.
§ Mr. Frank Field
As health expenditure per person in Scotland is 25 per cent. higher than in England, can the Minister assure the House that, on average, Scottish citizens are 25 per cent. healthier than English citizens? If not, should he not spend his time making sure that his Department devises indices to answer that question rather than ramming through National Health Service reforms, since neither the Government nor anyone else can say whether they will improve or reduce health standards in Scotland, England or Wales?
§ Mr. Forsyth
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. He is right to point out that health expenditure is 25 per cent. higher in Scotland than it is in England. He is also right to point out that health in Scotland is no better as a result. He should address his remarks to his own party, which seems to believe that the problems of the Health Service are entirely—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) is a member of a party which is arguing that the only problems with the Health Service are due to inadequate resources. Yet he has pointed out that although Scotland has been provided with substantial additional resources, health in Scotland is not proportionately better. It is for those reasons that we put forward our White Paper proposals. I welcome the hon. Gentleman as an ally in what we are trying to do in the National Health Service.