Yes, we shall continue to do so. This year we have given the region an additional £17 million growth money and this should help it to continue to improve and expand its services.
Does the Minister realise that this is not a question of allocating money to the regions? Is he aware that the report of the Resource Allocations Working Party recommended that the policy should also carry through to the areas where services are provided? Will he bear in mind that Montagu hospital is still under duress? Will he ensure that anything allocated to the Trent region and to the other three authorities involved is passed through to the Montagu hospital? Will the Minister visit the Montagu hospital and the surrounding catchment area to ensure that what we have always said about patients coming first is carried out fairly and justly by the Government?
The RAWP formula that we use demonstrates that the Trent region needs growth money. That is why it has £17 million extra this year, which represents 2·4 per cent. real growth in services for the region as a whole. That money has to make its way through to priorities in each of the districts. The Montagu hospital has been the subject of controversy in the past. The hon. Gentleman has made frequent representations that it should be kept and improved as an acute hospital. The present position is that the Doncaster health authority is consulting about the future of the Montagu hospital. The documents are out and views are now forthcoming. We are pledged to continue its use as an acute hospital. I shall certainly consider the hon. Gentleman's invitation to visit it, but that might be more appropriate when the consultation process has gone a little further.
Has the Minister considered the case, about which I wrote recently to his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, of one of my constituents who moved last year from Scotland to the Doncaster area, which is in the Trent health region, and found that the level of care that she had experienced in Scotland was not available to her in Doncaster? Will he take steps to remove such regional disparity and ensure that our National Health Service is truly national?
I visited that hospital in Doncaster in the summer of last year. I have no doubt that the quality of care that patients receive in Doncaster is of the highest standard. There are certainly differences between different parts of the country. That is why we have this so-called RAWP formula, which we use when distributing the growth money so that some parts of the country get more growth than others. That is the background to the disputes that we sometimes have in southern England, where well funded districts find it difficult to accept the need to rationalise and to change their services, and are encouraged in their resistance by the arguments of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) and others who try to pretend that the background is always that of national cuts. The Government are trying to rationalise and to improve the efficiency of the service and to release resources to go to places such as Doncaster and other parts of the country that need more money.