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Treatment Methods And Centres Of Excellence

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consideration is given to the central funding of new methods of treatment and of regional centres of excellence.

New methods of treatment are normally funded by individual health authorities from the funds made available each year to them. Where a service involves substantial expenditure and is of national interest, arrangements may exceptionally be made for central funding.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. May I ask about the new method of kidney treatment that is being developed in Birmingham, which has fallen on the charge of the finances of the district health authority, which is unable to sustain it, and, similarly, about the centre for neurosurgery at Smethwick, which has suffered with regard to grants for the same reason, compared with Sheffield, for example?

The need for renal treatment is widespread and must be handled on a regional basis. The West Midlands regional health authority is giving high priority to its renal services. It has been financing a new transplant unit at Stoke and new dialysis services at Coventry, for example. It has had to put a cash limit on a service in Birmingham, but overall the region is spending more money than before on renal services and is treating more patients. It intends to continue to do so. The future of the new unit at Sandwell will be looked at by the region in the first place, which is now consulting on its regional services. If it comes to us with a proposition, we shall look at it with interest.

Is it not disgraceful that patients are denied the benefits of the new treatment developed at the centres of excellence simply because central funding is not available and those centres cannot afford the cost themselves? Can the Minister help?

As I have just explained, central and regional funding for those services has been expanded rapidly. Some £2 million a year more is being spent in the west midlands on renal services than was the case three or four years ago. There has been restraint on one centre providing one form of treatment in Birmingham, which was outstripping its budget by far, but the general picture in the region is that more money is being spent on services and more patients are being treated. I am assured by the region that it is setting itself higher targets.

While the Minister is considering the funding of those centres of excellence, may I draw to his attention the fact that in Manchester we have numerous hospitals of excellence, such as Christie's, and those dealing with plastic and neurosurgery? Is he aware that a burden is being placed on the social workers of the city and that while 93 per cent. of patients attending Christie's cancer hospital are from outside Manchester, Manchester ratepayers have paid £1½ million to support the social workers?

When it comes to funding the hospital service, which is the responsibility of the Government, we compensate health authorities for the cost of treating patients who come from outside their district and immediate locality. With regard to funds for the service as a whole, the latest public spending round produced an extra £80 million on top of previously published plans for the Health Service, which will allow for real growth in services next year.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will shortly make an announcement about the distribution of that extra money to each and every health authority.