HC Deb 14 March 1995 vol 256 cc682-4
9. Mr. Thomason

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment has been made by her Department of the likely savings to be made for the health services as a result of the Health Authorities Bill; and what savings will be made.

12. Mr. David Martin

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimates have been made of the savings resulting from the abolition of the regional health authorities.

Mr. Malone

The provisions of the Health Authorities Bill, which will abolish regional health authorities and require district health authorities and family health services authorities to merge, will result in annual savings approaching £150 million by 1997-98. Some £100 million of the total savings will result from the abolition of the RHAs and the consequent reduction in the overlap of work between the national health service executive and the regions. All those savings will be retained by the NHS and reinvested in patient care.

Mr. Thomason

I welcome that answer. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the changes will mean that there will be more money available for patient care, whereas Labour's proposals to create strategic health planning would take money away? Does my hon. Friend agree that this is another case in which the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) should tell the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) that she has got it wrong again?

Mr. Malone

I would never presume to tell the right hon. Member for Sedgefield what messages he should give to the right hon. Member for Derby, South. All I notice occasionally is that, when he gives them, she does not pay a blind bit of notice to them; but never mind that. The position set out by my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course those funds will be available for patient care. I noted, when the Health Authorities Bill was in Committee, that the Labour party wanted to reimpose bureaucracy and to take the money that would be available for patients away.

Mr. Martin

Can my hon. Friend confirm that the welcome abolition of Wessex regional health authority is part of a general and consistent assault on bureaucracy throughout the national health service, not least in hospitals themselves? Can he confirm that the savings created from this will go not only to patient care, but to ensuring that consultants working in hospitals can get on with treating patients rather than worrying about paperwork?

Mr. Malone

My hon. Friend is right. The Government have a consistent record of cutting bureaucracy not only in administering the NHS and the country, but within the Department of Health, in Whitehall and in the NHS executive. Constantly paring away bureaucracy means that funds are released for patient care. That is a proud record, which the Labour party tries to interfere with and upset.

Mr. Barry Jones

How many additional nurses will result from the savings?

Mr. Malone

The sum of £100 million a year is substantial. When it is redirected into the purchasing process, it will allow a substantial increase in activity. That figure would represent something approaching—this is a top-of-my-head calculation at the Dispatch Box to which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will not hold me—20,000 cardiac bypass operations. The hon. Gentleman wants to put the figure in the scale of things and to know what it will mean for patients; that is a pretty good try.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

This is a refinement of the way in which the Minister answered the question in Committee. As he says that there is extra money to invest in the national health service, will he now explain to the House what the Prime Minister meant last Thursday when he said that there was available in Leeds

a highly specialised form of treatment"?— [Official Report, 9 March 1995; Vol. 256, c. 454.] By implication, such treatment was not available in Greater London. Is such a facility to be made available in Greater London? What exactly is available in Leeds and not available in Greater London?

Mr. Malone

The hon. Gentleman will know that he is distorting my right hon. Friend's words in a ridiculous way. First-class health services are available across the country, not least because the Government have put into place policies that mean that more money is directed straight to patient care than is absorbed by the rest of the service. That is why first-class services are available across the land. It is wrong of the hon. Gentleman to treat my right hon. Friend's remark in that way.

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