Orders of the Day — National Health Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd November 1978.

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Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury 12:00 am, 2nd November 1978

No doubt it will be reported to him. He reads my speeches, and I read his. It is amazing how the hon. Member for Nelson and Coln (Mr. Hoyle) cannot resist taking part in my speeches. That is always the way.

The Prime Minister, in his calm, bland, cool and almost unflappable manner said that no major steps would be taken in the Health Service until after the Royal Commission had reported, and with that he packed his bags and left. But why should we have to wait? It is wrong to have to wait. There is a crisis in the Health Service and something needs to be done. We expect something to be done. There are many people in the Health Service who will note very carefully what has been said this afternoon.

I believe that it is not so much a question of suffering from the sins of my hon. Friends who established the reorganisation. We are suffering today from lack of leadership in the Health Service. We are suffering not from over-management but from mismanagement. We are suffering from a failure to operate line management in the Health Service. I see it all the time. With £8,000 million a year, and 1 million employees, the NHS is an enormous responsibility. Delegation and devolution of responsibility are essential. Control must be exercised from and by the Government at the centre. The Secretary of State must give leadership because he is the boss. One thing that the Prime Minister could have done was to relieve the Secretary of State of his other responsibilities and require him to give all his time to the health of the nation. It would be worth it. At £8,000 million a year, it is one of the largest appointments on its own, without the right hon. Gentleman having to be responsible for other aspects of social provision.

There is a crisis in the Health Service, and there is restiveness. The situation is so serious that we should not have to wait for the Royal Commission to tell us what to do. At a time when we are facing this grave problem it is extraordinary to say that we can do nothing, that the Government cannot act, and that Parliament is not even allowed to think about the matter. We should not have to wait, but we continue to suffer. The Government have decided to soldier on and to turn their backs on this crisis in the Health Service. This is not good enough. The Government's failure, and indeed refusal, to act is a monstrous example of indifference to one of the major social problems of our time. They have missed their opportunity, and they do not deserve our confidence.