My right hon. Friend last met Sir John Page during a visit to the regional health authority headquarters in Manchester on 30 October 1987. He was told of the progress being made in improving patient services within the region.
Is the Minister aware that, if that visit had taken place just before Christmas, they could have discussed—or indeed witnessed—engineers coming in to cut off the oxygen supply to the incubators for premature babies at St. Mary's hospital ., and that, if it had taken place last week, they could have discussed with nurses why they were forced to strike? Do not those conditions show that the National Health Service is in the throes of a terminal disease for which the Government are not offering a remedy?
Has my right hon. Friend seen the excellent report from Sir John Page, which landed on our desks today, in which he points out the many savings being made in the region—particularly in purchasing policy — the vast increase in building of which my hon. Friend saw an example a few months ago, and the vast increase in patient care? That does not mean that we do not want more in Lancaster, we do. Nevertheless, it is doing very nicely.
I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing the report to which my hon. Friend referred, but I remember with pleasure my visit to her area to open some large new hospital facilities there.
When the meeting took place, was the crisis in the Salford area health authority discussed? Was there a discussion of the four wards that will have to close? Was it mentioned that the health authority must find £2 million per year into the 1990s, and that the money that has been allocated on a one-yearly basis is entirely unsatisfactory? What is the Minister going to do about the crisis in the inner cities—not least in Salford?
Among other things, we are seeking to improve the quality of primary care services in the inner cities, and that is an important part of the mix as a whole. With regard to my right hon. Friend's visit, of course the concerns that were expressed then were taken into account when we made substantial money available this year and an extra £700 million for the hospital and community health services, including those in the north-west, next year.