To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he next expects to meet the chairman of Trent regional health authority to discuss hospital closures in Sheffield.
Ministers will meet the chairman of all the English regional health authorities, including Trent, at the next regional meeting in May.
When Ministers meet the chairman will they ask him how he defends Sheffield's preferred overall pattern of acute hospital services for the future, which does not take into account bed requirements and will undoubtedly lead to the closure of two support hospitals? Will the Minister also ask the chairman about future demand for beds for the elderly and the possibility of future major accidents?
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has said, from next year we shall begin the process of funding district health authorities on the basis of weighted capitation. Therefore, over a period of years there will be a fair allocation between different parts of the country—for example, between Sheffield and Sevenoaks. As I understand it, there are not yet any formal proposals for Sheffield. There is merely a plan. I assure the hon. Gentleman that if specific proposals are made, to which the community health council has objections, and if those objections are maintained by the regional health authority, the proposals will be brought to Ministers and the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to put his view directly.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the revenue of Trent regional health authority has once again increased faster than inflation? Would he care to compare that with what happened to the health authority under the Labour Government?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House that the total increase for hospital services in the current year is about 8·5 per cent. in cash terms. In real terms the increase in funding for the National Health Service in the past 10 years is about 40 per cent. Every region in the country has benefited from increased expenditure this year. Every region has benefited from a real terms increase.