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Area Health Boards (Expenditure)

Volume 930: debated on Wednesday 27 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has given any guidance to area health boards on the priority they would adopt in their expenditure policies in the light of the latest White Paper on Public Expenditure.

General priorities remain as stated in "The Health Service in Scotland: The Way Ahead", published last April, but my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary met health board chairmen on 14th April for discussion of expenditure guidelines and the use of resources.

I am surprised that the Secretary of State has not issued any guidelines on the administrative costs of the National Health Service. Is the Secretary of State aware that a reduction of 10 per cent. in the administration of the Service would not only save money but greatly improve the efficiency of the Service and give a great boost to the morale of doctors, nurses and others working in the medical professions?

Some of the additional administrative expenses in the National Health Service are caused by the attempt to reduce the administrative burdens on members of the medical profession. It is not true that the Government have done nothing about administrative costs, because in January 1976 we put a freeze on administrative staffing.

In view of the increased burden of taxation which is to fall upon the motorist and which inevitably will hit worst the rural areas where there is often not enough public transport, will the Secretary of State give priority to the retention of good, established cottage hospitals in the smaller towns of Scotland?

Will the Secretary of State take a converse view to that suggested by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) and allow an area health board to implement its own first priority by giving it the finance to get the new hospital in Dunfermline started?

In the next day or two I hope that we shall be able to announce the results of the review of the capital programme of the health boards, which has been going on for some time and which has now been completed.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that at the meeting to which he referred adequate consideration was given to the problem of providing more facilities for training the adult mentally handicapped? Is he satisfied that the present administrative arrangements are adequate, or does he think that hospital boards should be more closely involved?

Some of these matters are for the local authorities through the social work departments rather than the health boards. One of the priorities in the document "The Way Ahead", to which I have already referred, is the needs of the mentally ill and the physically and mentally handicapped.