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Primary Health Care

Volume 401: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2003

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If he will make a statement on budget deficits in primary health care services. [103197]

In both of the last two financial years, the national health service has reported a break-even position, an improvement on the deficit of £459 million in 1996–97. For this financial year, discussions are currently taking place between primary care trusts and strategic health authorities on managing their end-of-year financial positions.

I thank the Minister for that reply. When the Department wrote to me recently boasting about the additional money for Stockport primary care trust, was the right hon. Gentleman aware that £5 million of that was needed for deficit reduction and that, as a result, the trust's board tells me that it is now required to make real-terms reductions of £1.3 million in the next financial year? As audiology, child psychiatry and mental health services are under real pressure in Stockport, may I encourage the right hon. Gentleman, when he writes to hon. Members boasting about increases in money, to avoid the spin and state the facts?

We always state the facts and we have done that on this occasion. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out the difficulties that his PCT is experiencing, and I shall certainly look into those issues on his behalf, but a certain reciprocity would be welcome. I am happy to go in for that, if the hon. Gentleman would like to welcome the 26 per cent. cash increase that Stockport PCT received over the past three years and the 29 per cent. increase to which it can look forward over the next three years.

I am not sure whether the Minister fully understands what a fact is. If he cut out the spin and actually answered the question put by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell), he would be aware that a number of PCTs will have deficits at the end of the current financial year. For example, my PCT in Chelmsford will have a deficit of £1 million. I wrote to 50 per cent. of PCTs, and a significant number wrote back to say that they will not break even at the end of this year and will have deficits. Instead of spinning and citing figures, why does the Minister not face up to reality, answer the question straightforwardly and explain how PCTs with deficits at the beginning of the next financial year will deal with them?

I did answer the question put by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove fairly and fully, but there is a wider issue. Of course, we shall look into the end-of-year position; it is the job of SHAs and PCTs to do that. There is, however, a certain credibility gap when the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) comes to this place demanding, in effect, more resources for the NHS when his policy is to take money away from the NHS.