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National Health Service (Expenditure)

Volume 22: debated on Monday 19 April 1982

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asked the Prime Minister how many auditors or other public servants audit National Health Service expenditure; and how many of these are (a) internal National Health Service audit staff including the staff of any central Government Department other than the Department of Health and Social Security and any other separate National Health Service entities, (b) statutory auditors of the Department of Health and Social Security staff, (c) Treasury personnel or (d) staff of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The total staff of Government Departments employed, at the end of March 1982, on the audit of National Health Service expenditure was 344. Of these, 239 were staff of the Department of Health and Social Security, 44 of the Scottish Home and Health Department, 25 of the Northern Ireland DHSS, and 36 were staff of the Comptrollers and Auditors General. Treasury staff are not employed in the audit of National Health Service expenditure. Recent figures for National Health Service staff employed on internal audit in England and Wales are not available; a study undertaken in 1978 showed that there was the equivalent of 580 whole time staff engaged on such duties. In Scotland in July 1981 the equivalent of 69 whole time staff were so employed. Health authorities in Northern Ireland currently employ 20·5 staff—whole-time equivalents—on internal audit.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that National Health Service staff have increased by over 100 per cent. since 1960 and in the same period hospital beds have decreased by over 20 per cent., she will review the extent of financial control; and if she is now satisfied that proper financial control is being applied.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has announced new arrangements to improve financial and policy accountability in the National Health Service. Each year Ministers will lead a departmental review of the long-term plans, objectives and effectiveness of each Region with the chairmen of the regional authorities and chief regional officers. The aims of the new system will be to ensure that each region is using the resources allocated to it in accordance with the Government's policies—for example giving priority to services for the elderly, the handicapped and the mentally ill—and also to establish agreement with the chairmen on the progress and development which the regions will aim to achieve in the ensuing year. Successive reviews will thus enable Ministers to measure the progress made by regions against the agreed plans and objectives, as well as to determine action necessary in the year ahead.