Skip to main content

NHS: Hospitals

Volume 692: debated on Monday 14 May 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What percentage of the total capital value of new hospital building projects, with a value of £29.7 million or above, built since 1997 relates to hospitals situated in parliamentary constituencies which currently have a sitting Labour Member of Parliament.

My Lords, of the 54 new hospital building projects with a value of £29.7 million or above built since 1997, 72 per cent are located in a constituency with a sitting Labour Member of Parliament. The capital value figure is 86 per cent. All major hospitals, of course, take patients from catchment areas significantly larger than the constituency in which they are located.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for confirming the statistics that have been given in the other place and, indeed, for updating the numbers. Will he attempt to justify this rather remarkable distribution of the money invested in hospitals built overwhelmingly in Labour-held constituencies?

My Lords, no justification is required. We have seen a huge increase in capital investment in the health service, which is why we have so many new hospitals. The noble Lord ignores the fact that hospitals serve a very wide catchment area. My local hospital, Birmingham University trust, has a Labour MP for Edgbaston, but it serves many primary care trusts. The Question is meaningless in terms of the noble Lord’s implication.

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that most of those new hospital developments have been in big cities and major urban areas that felt the brunt of the 18 years of neglect of the National Health Service by the previous Conservative Government?

My Lords, that, of course, is absolutely right. The net capital expenditure on the NHS in 1996-97 was £1.34 billion; in 2006-07, it was £3.54 billion, to which PFI contributed another £1.094 billion. That is a massive increase from which many people in this country benefit.

My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that the figures do not look so meaningless when, in another place at every Prime Minister’s Question Time, one Labour MP or another jumps up to say, “Thank you very much for the wonderful new hospital in my constituency”?

My Lords, those MPs reflect the opinions of their constituents. Those constituents and the people of this country have seen the largest-ever investment in our health service, the largest number of people employed in it and a huge expansion in services. That is at the heart of this Question.

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that if you are as assiduous in listening to Prime Minister’s Questions as I am, you will hear not only Labour Members expressing their gratitude, but Conservatives constantly griping and then having to be told about the 300 to 400 per cent increase in resources that their own constituencies have received?

My Lords, again, my noble friend has asked a penetrating question on the negative attitude of the party opposite to the National Health Service.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that during the 18 years of Conservative government 86 new hospitals were built? Does he accept, therefore, that the rate at which new hospitals have been built has been roughly the same under both Governments?

My Lords, of course the previous Government had a record in capital spend that does not and cannot compare to the huge resources that this Government have put into the NHS and new hospitals. If the noble Earl looks at the spending of the previous Government, he will see that there was a bias towards rural community areas. During the last 10 years of that Conservative Government, at least 60 per cent of those developments were in Conservative constituencies.

My Lords, given the questions that abound regarding the basis for decisions made on the building of new hospitals, can the Minister say how much weight we should place on reports in Friday’s newspapers of the economic analysis of PFI schemes in London carried out by the NHS in London? That report suggested that decisions on closures or redesigns of services will have to be made on economic grounds, because PFI hospitals are too expensive to close, rather than on local need and clinical advisability. Is that really the case?

My Lords, we should await the work of London’s strategic health authority before coming to such draconian conclusions. PFI has enabled us to speed up the development of new hospitals and many people have benefited from that. Flexibility is built into those PFI schemes in terms of future use of those institutions. The NAO’s reports into a number of schemes have confirmed that PFI schemes provide value for money.

My Lords, is the skew that the Minister reported in the relationship between hospitals built in Labour-held constituencies statistically significant?

My Lords, surely the statistical significance is that hospitals have catchment areas that go much wider than the constituency in which they are built. The noble Lord should recognise that many Labour MPs represent urban constituencies, which is historically where large hospitals are based. This programme is about developing an infrastructure that was so grievously undermined when he was a Minister in the health department. We are putting that right and, as a result, we will provide care for all the people in this country.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that where a health facility should be situated should be based not on the political constituency but on the health needs of the population, particularly where there are poorer outcomes in regard to health?