Yes, Sir. Some 34,000 National Health Service in-patients, 4,000 day patients and 200,000 out-patients are treated annually in military hospitals in the United Kingdom. Ways of increasing the number of National Health Service patients treated in military hospitals are being considered by my right hon. Friends.
As the hospitals of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, which have excellent standards, now take 34,000 National Health Service inpatients every year and could take very many thousands more—on 6 January they had 495 beds available —will my right hon. Friend please urgently consider how they can take more? In particular, will she please consider whether waiting list money can be further applied?
I am very much aware of my right hon. and hon. Friend's concern to see that we get as much health care out of the facilities as we possibly can. The ordinary health authorities can apply for waiting list money if they know of beds which are free in military hospitals and can made an arrangement for patients to be treated there, so we are going in the direction required by my hon. Friend.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the armed forces could provide more beds for National Health Service use and, indeed, provide facilities for the National Health Service—which is being cut back under her Government—if she adopted different priorities and shifted the £11 billion she is spending on nuclear weapons in the form of Trident to the National Health Service? In that way the continuing complaints about operations not being carried out would be brought to an end and we could spend money on patient care, instead of on mass extermination.
The National Health Service is not being cut back. Over and above inflation, there has been provision for an extra 30 per cent. for the National Health Service. The hon. Gentleman might have got muddled up with the record of his own Government, who, 10 years ago, cut back the National Health Service, and who also cut in real terms nurses' and doctors' pay. Under this Government, the money has gone up, the number of nurses and doctors has gone up and the pay has gone up.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the limitation on the number of National Health Service patients dealt with by the services has been caused by a long-running wrangle between the Ministry of Defence and the DHSS? We on the Public Accounts Committee have been assured that that wrangle will reach a satisfactory conclusion by 31 March. Has that same assurance been given to my right hon. Friend?
As my hon. Friend heard, 34,000 National Health Service in-patients are being treated by military hospitals, as are a lot of day patients and outpatients. I can assure my hon. Friend that health authorities are being encouraged to consider every possibility, including military hospitals, when putting in their bids for allocations from the waiting list fund. In view of my hon. Friend's question, I shall make further inquiries to ensure that what he wants is happening.