HC Deb 13 November 1991 vol 198 cc1067-8
7. Mrs. Ray Michie

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total cost of the launch of the patients charter in Scotland.

Mr. Lang

The cost of the production and launch of the patients charter to date is £29,316. We expect to stimulate significant improvements in NHS performance, particularly on waiting times, as a result.

Mrs. Michie

Does the Secretary of State agree that the staff of the national health service are dedicated and caring and have achieved many of the aims spelt out in that glossy document? Does he agree that what they need is support and proper resources so that they can carry out their work, not what has been happening over the past 12 years—continual restructuring and reforms which do the service no good and break up the comprehensive national health service that we all know?

Mr. Lang

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady's complimentary remarks about the quality of the staff in the health service. That is why I particularly welcome the enthusiastic way in which they have embraced the patients charter and the accompanying document on internal management in the health service, "Framework for Action".

As for resources, the hon. Lady will know that we spent about £3 billion on the health service in Scotland last year, which is more than £600 per head for every man, woman and child in the country and represents an increase of about 38 per cent. over and above the cost of living in the past 12 years. Resources are there in plenty; what we are now achieving is an improved application of those resources. That is what the patients charter is about, and that is why it is so warmly welcomed.

Mr. Favell

To an Englishman like me, it is a source of astonishment that Scots should intransigently oppose any kind of change in the health service. No one has done more to advance the frontiers of medicine than the Scots, yet the Opposition oppose any sort of change. Do not the Scots realise that with better techniques, new medical discoveries and more efficacious drugs many more people would be treated if only the health service were to change?

Mr. Lang

There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend says, and the pride which I and my fellow Scots have in the health service in Scotland is a reflection of the achievements of the past 12 years and the resources that we have put into it. As a result, 900,000 more patients were treated last year than in 1979, and that has resulted in in-patient waiting lists being 21 per cent. lower than in 1979.

Mr. Wilson

In total, how much does the Scottish Office intend to spend this year on thinly disguised party political propaganda, including vacuous glossy charters? Will he confirm that last year the Scottish Office spent £2.6 million on advertising alone, which is 10 times the figure for 1979? Why should the Tory party not pay for its own advertising out of party political funds rather than constantly using taxpayers' money to try to get its message across? The figure of £2.6 million is equal to almost £300,000 per Tory MP in Scotland. Is the taxpayer getting value for money?

Mr. Lang

There is no question of the Government using public funds for party political purposes, and I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman should suggest that. Of course, the Scottish Office runs a number of public information campaigns and I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman would want us to do that to encourage the improvement of health in various ways. The patients charter is aimed at improving the quality of the delivery of health care in Scotland and at making patients aware of their rights, thereby helping to improve even more the delivery of the health service.

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