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District Health Authorities (Capital Allocations)

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary pf state for Wales if he will make it his policy for the capital allocations to district health authorities to be assessed separately from the regional requirements of the total capital allocation.

It is already my policy to do so.

As my hon. Friend is aware, under the regional review of December 1986 the capital resource assumptions for Clwyd health authority were reduced by approximately £10 million over 10 years. Does he agree that investment in the capital programmes of health authorities such as Clwyd — particularly increased investment—would enable them greatly to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their hospitals, thus enabling them to provide a better service at less cost? Will he therefore make more money, not less, available to Clwyd so that schemes such as that for a Hollywell community hospital can be brought forward?

To some extent, my hon. Friend makes an obvious point. The other point is that health authorities should try to use their allocations as effectively as possible. I notice that in the current year Clwyd's capital allocation rose by 14 per cent. That is the sort of funding that enables the authority to give good service to its people.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that hospital closures are scheduled in Gwynedd such as those in Porthmedog and Llangefni—where new capital programmes had been promised but are not going ahead, yet the closures that were to make way for the capital programme are taking place? Is not that ridiculous, and cannot more capital be found to ensure that new hospitals are built instead of others being closed?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot comment on the proposals that will be coming forward from the health authority, because of the quasi-judicial position of my right hon. Friend. Over recent years Gwynedd health authority has been the best funded, both in capital and current terms.

Is my hon. Friend aware that adequate capital allocation will enable money-saving schemes, such as the concentration of services at Glan Clwyd hospital, to take place, whereas under Labour there were savage cuts in the capital allocations, which probably resulted in increased expenditure on current account?

Indeed, that is what the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) said. He is one of the few who remember that. I certainly remember the fall in expenditure. In one year alone, real expenditure on capital on the Health Service in Wales fell by 33 per cent.

Does the hon. Gentleman recognise, too, that there are individual black spots, such as the Royal Gwent hospital at Newport, which has a massive waiting list that includes one of my constituents, Mr. Mark Williams of Rogiet? He is 77 years of age and has been waiting for the past 12 months for an operation on both his knees. Now he has been told that he must wait for a further 21 months. Yet at the same time the Minister goes around the country saying that by next April people will not have to wait longer than 12 months to get into hospital. Why does he go around making those false claims?

It is worth pointing out that the Gwent health authority has been funded since 1984–85 for capital by an increase of 145 per cent. It is up to the authority how it operates its finances. For instance, I hope the hon. Gentleman will agree that there are many ways in which it could raise funds, but it has so far obdurately refused to to so.