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Health Care

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to avoid a deterioration in health care in Wales arising from the financial difficulties faced by many Welsh health authorities.

District health authorities have management responsibility for ensuring the effectiveness of health care within the resources available to them. They have been funded well in excess of inflation. Between 1978–79 and 1987–88 their recurrent revenue provision grew by 32 per cent. in real terms.

The Minister is again missing out the fact that, in order to stand still, health authorities need to be funded way above the rate of inflation to cope with the demands of our aging population and the more expensive needs of the medical services. The announcement that was made last week in a parliamentary answer shows that the funding is below that level. It copes with inflation, but it does not cope with the other needs. It is not the helping hand that health authorities need. It is another slap in the face and a certain prescription for a deepening crisis within the National Health Service. Will the Minister now admit that his Government's policy is to allow the NHS to decay and to allow services to become debased in order to force people into the private sector.

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can have listened to the answer to the question, which showed that funding is well ahead of inflation. That is very different from the position before the hon. Gentleman came to this House. Under his party this country had to suffer. The hon. Gentleman referred to a reduction in Health Service funding. How can that service have been reduced when there are 13 per cent. more nursing staff, 13·3 per cent. more medical and dental staff, over 17 per cent. more consultants and over 10 per cent. more registrars? We are treating 84,000 more in-patients a year than were treated when the hon. Gentleman's party was in office. I cannot believe that that represents a failure in any service.

The hon. Gentleman's answers are based on largely phoney figures, going back over the whole period. Do they mean that he and his right hon. Friend will take no notice of the representations of the presidents of the royal colleges, whose most important representations were referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams)? Surely the proper answer by anybody who represents, or is responsible for, the Welsh Health Service should be to say today, "We will enter into immediate consultations with our British opposite numbers and ensure that something is done to meet the representations that are now coming not only from the Labour party but from the heads of the royal colleges and the great hospitals of our country."

When the right hon. Gentleman was a senior member of the Labour Government, the Health Service stumbled to its knees. Does he really call it a fake figure, when nurses' pay fell by over 21 per cent. when he was a Minister? Is that the way to run the National Health Service?

My hon. Friend has tried to give the real facts about the increase in staff in the National Health Service, but the Opposition do not want to listen. Will he repeat those facts? Will he also tell me how many additional patients have been treated by the Health Service under this Government who would not have been treated had we returned to the funding levels that existed under the last Labour Government?

I shall repeat, because of the uproar last time, that the number of in-patients has increased by up to 84,000—an increase of 24 per cent. The number of out-patients has increased by 76,000. That is not a declining service; that is an improved service, as the people of Wales are well aware.