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Nhs (Hospital Beds)

Volume 25: debated on Tuesday 15 June 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the latest figure for unopened new beds in National Health Service hospitals; and what action is proposed to bring them into use.

In March this year 934 new beds in seven NHS hospitals were unopened. These beds are being progressively brought into use as resources permit. Continuing delays in commissioning new beds will be discussed with regional health authority chairmen at annual review meetings.

Irrespective of past poor planning, which created the problem, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the beds remaining unopened represent a serious waste of national resources? Will he ensure that the beds are opened by the end of 1983?

The problem is entirely the result of poor planning and unrealistic resource expectations. We are solving that. When the Comptroller and Auditor General produced a report on the matter he revealed that there were 3,434 unopened beds in 1979–80. We have reduced that figure to 934 and hope to eliminate the problem.

Does the Minister agree that it is disgraceful that there are still 1,000 beds that are not being used in the Health Service, at a time when the Government are encouraging private clinics, such as the Yorkshire clinic, which is near my constituency, to open and thus draw resources from the NHS? Does he agree that the Government's first priority should be to ensure a decent National Health Service for the use of all?

It is a waste. It is as a result of poor planning. We are putting increased resources into the NHS. By next year we shall have increased spending on the NHS in real terms by 6 per cent. as compared with when we came into office. That is helping to eliminate the problem of wasted unopened beds in new hospitals.