My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was pleased to announce last week that North Yorkshire and York primary care trust will receive an 11.6 per cent. increase in funding over the next two years. That places my hon. Friend’s primary care trust in the top quarter of increases in allocations.
I have been arguing for years that the North Yorkshire and York PCT did not get enough money to meet the health needs of the large number of elderly people who live in what is a largely rural area, so I congratulate the Government on changing the funding formula to put that right. I am pleased that the PCT will get larger increases than the national average in future, but will the Minister do everything he can to ensure that it clears its deficit as soon as possible? That will ensure that this large amount of extra money will be used to provide new and better health services for patients, and not to clear historical debts.
Yes, and I am delighted that my hon. Friend’s persistent and effective lobbying on behalf of his local PCT has paid off. He will be aware that the PCT has gone through some difficult personnel issues, which are now being addressed. It is working very closely with his regional strategic health authority to ensure that the challenges to which he refers are overcome as quickly as possible.
Although I welcome the additional expenditure, will the Minister tell the House for how long the extra money will be available, and does he accept that the funding formula has to change? Per patient, the PCT and the individual hospital trusts have been receiving much less than the average, so will he review the patient formula? Will he reintroduce the factors that reflect the sparsity and rurality of the population because, as the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) suggested, our ageing population lives in deeply rural areas? [Interruption.]
Exactly, we have just done that—the new formula has been changed to take into account elderly populations, and that is why the hon. Lady’s PCT has benefited so dramatically from the increase in funding. She asks how long the funding formula will apply, and I can tell her that it is for the next two years. At the end of that period, her PCT will still be 2.4 per cent. below target, but that is a good position for it to be in as it will then have more catching up to do. However, it is far less likely to catch up under a Conservative Government, as her party is committed to cutting spending on health.
Will the Minister review the role of patient referral units? They cajole patients to take up operations at the Capio private hospital in York, even though many would otherwise choose to have their operations in Scarborough.
It is interesting to hear a Conservative Member running down the use of the private or independent sector in health care. No one is being cajoled to go into the Capio centre, but people are being offered a choice. I thought that Conservatives were in favour of choice.