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East Cumbria Health Authority

Volume 202: debated on Tuesday 21 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he last met the chairman of the Northern regional health authority to discuss the financial budget of East Cumbria district health authority.

I have not discussed East Cumbria's budget with the chairman of the Northern regional health authority. Establishing the budgets of district health authorities is a task delegated to the regional health authority.

Will the Minister discuss with the regional chairman the formula base that is used for the distribution of money to the districts? Is he happy with the fact that one of the deprivation factors that he has used relates to car ownership? Does he realise that, in rural areas such as East Cumbria, many low-paid people need cars because public transport does not exist? Last year this formula robbed East Cumbria and my constituents of many thousands of pounds. Does not the Minister agree that it will be a travesty if the same formula is used this year and my constituents are therefore robbed of much more money that is needed for health in the area?

Some of my hon. Friends will be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his advocacy of the rural cause. He raises a subject that he has discussed with me. I have told him that I agree that the way in which the region originally proposed to use car ownership raises some questions that have not yet been answered. That is why the Department has written to the Northern region saying in effect, "We hope you will take account of our reservations in the next year's allocations, either in the formula or in tempering the pace of change where you have yet to satisfy yourselves and us that the adjustment you propose is entirely reliable."

When my hon. Friend meets the chairman of the East Cumbria authority, will he congratulate him warmly on the fact that having, since 1982–83, secured a budget increase, after inflation, of almost 15 per cent. and an increase in front-line staff of about 28 per cent., he has succeeded in securing a yearly increase of 42 per cent. in the number of in-patients and an increase of 152 per cent. in the number of out-patients? That is a very remarkable achievement.

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to the very distinguished record of that health authority. He might have drawn attention also to the fact that the health service is planning to spend £36 million on a very substantial capital scheme at the Cumberland infirmary. The health service in East Cumbria is developing fast, to the benefit of all patients—my right hon. Friend's constituents and those of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew).