Stephen O'Brien (Shadow Minister, Health; Eddisbury, Conservative)
I hope to mention the hon. Lady in dispatches later in my speech. I am intrigued by her question, because I hope that she knows—not least because of my own personal connection with her—that we have a strong commitment to the NHS as a national health service. By "national", we mean the United Kingdom. However, we must recognise that the authority and accountability for NHS services in Scotland has now been devolved and it would therefore be inappropriate for me to take up the House's time dealing with matters of Scottish accountability.
The Government have an addictive personality disorder and we are constantly told that all such habits are costly and have dire consequences. We have been here before. As recently as 2001, the Government announced that 302 primary care trusts were to be established as statutory bodies to replace the health authorities and that nine regional offices of the NHS executive were to be abolished in favour of 28 strategic health authorities. The Government's proposals for PCTs and SHAs effectively return the NHS to the same map that they abolished only three years ago. The Health Committee slated this U-turn, stating:
"A return to structures which are similar in size and function to previous Health Authorities raises important questions about why the shortcoming now being identified"—
by the Government—
"could not have been easily anticipated and addressed before the PCTs' introduction three years ago".
Most worryingly, the cost of this reorganisation will reach £320 million, which I think gives a quantified answer to the question that my right hon. Friend Mr. Redwood asked earlier. Given the increased resources that have rightly been made available for the NHS, it is little wonder that there is a constant refrain from constituents and clinical staff alike of, "Where has all the money gone?"