HC Deb 14 May 1991 vol 191 cc135-6
1. Mr. Carrington

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the progress of health plans to meet health needs in regional health authorities.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. William Waldegrave)

Every regional health authority has submitted to my Department a plan for 1991–92 putting forward its key objectives and setting out levels of activity to be purchased to meet the health needs of its population. Regions are also developing strategies to improve health based on health needs identified in director of public health reports, which are published annually.

Mr. Carrington

My right hon. Friend will be aware that inner London is facing considerable problems in adjusting to the new structures of the national health service because of the high cost of London teaching hospitals. Will he reassure my constituents that the availability and quality of their health care will be assured under the new contracts?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is not fair to say that the problems facing London derive from the reforms. Everyone concerned with the national health service knows that there have been long-postponed issues to do with the division of NHS resources between London and the rest of the country, to which the reforms are indeed drawing attention. The regions and districts, together with the Department of Education and Science and those who have responsibility with us for teaching, must steer London carefully through the reform process.

Mr. Salmond

If the Minister is so confident that the planning and changes that he is introducing into the NHS have support, why are the Government so intent on appointing so many card-carrying members of the Tory party to positions of responsibility in the NHS? Are the members whom he is appointing a greater or smaller proportion than the extraordinary number of Tories who have been appointed to positions of responsibility in Scotland?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am not particularly interested in the party affiliations of those whom we appoint. We have appointed a good many people from other parties, although not, the hon. Gentleman will understand, within my responsibility, from his party.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Is my right hon. Friend aware—I gather from his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Carrington) that he is—that in my part of the world, in Lancaster and the north-west, we are glad that resources are at last being channelled to our area? We run our affairs prudently and are not short of staff or laying off staff.

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right, and I do not think that, fundamentally, there is any division between the two sides of the House on the issue. There needs to be a fairer distribution of health resources across the country. The reforms are clearly resulting in our making decisions in London that have been long deferred by both parties. We must do that, but we must do it skilfully.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why will not the Secretary of State publish all the business plans of all the trusts and all the documents that have been submitted by those organisations to his Department? The public should know the truth now. The debate in recent weeks has been about that, so let us see the documents and let the public know the truth.

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The debate has not been quite about that. There are a variety of management documents for directly managed hospitals and trusts that have not been prepared for publication. Many trusts are perfectly prepared to publish the documents, and why should they not do so if they choose? But it would be unfair on them to change the goalposts half way through and ask them to publish internal management documents that were not prepared for publication.

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