Is my hon. Friend aware that South East Thames regional health authority is the only authority that does not provide teaching funds to its district hospitals? Is she further aware that Medway health authority was promised such funds this year? Does she agree that the failure to honour that promise is a further example of the feeble subservience to the great London teaching hospitals which pays no regard to the shift in population or to the improvement in communications in the south-east?
I am sure that the regional health authority has taken note of my hon. Friend's views. Medway health authority is now teaching undergraduates, and is doing that very well. I know that the region wants to make an allocation to the authority, but it is waiting until we have finished our review of the RAWP formula, which includes an analysis and recalculation of the service increment for teaching. However, apart from anything else, my hon. Friend should be aware that the region has allocated £60 million to the health authority, and that is a substantial increase on recent years.
I must confess that I do not quite understand what the hon. Gentleman means. Our policy is to have 190 health authorities all over the country, to allocate them the resources that they need and to ask them to produce the best services possible.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is deep discontent in South East Thames region in general, and in my constituency of Maidstone in particular, on the part of the district health authority and the consultants and nurses, over the distribution of the South East Thames money that is so generously provided by the Government? Will she note that the chairman was seriously ill for a long time, so the ills of the South East Thames region cannot be laid fairly and squarely only on the chairman? There is something indelibly wrong with the way in which the authority runs itself, and I ask her to look closely at the matter.
Despite the strictures of my hon. Friend, I am pleased to note that there has been a rapid increase in the number of patients being treated by Maidstone district. She might be interested to know that Mr. Peter le Fleming, who is the regional manager and who has given many years of outstanding service to the Health Service, will be retiring later this year. I understand that the RHA is announcing today the appointment of Mr. Peter Griffiths, the district general manager of Lewisham and North Southwark district, who was previously district administrator in Medway, to the post. I hope that my hon. Friend will enjoy working with him in future.
Is the Minister aware that the South-East Thames regional advisory committee has said that there has been a
serious deterioration in the quality of care
because of cuts in general surgery, and that
it is not unusual for breast cancer surgery to be cancelled four or five times.
Does the hon. Lady still say that bed closures reflect an improvement in patient care, when the BMA's document, published yesterday, states that 50 per cent. of the acute beds that have been lost in hospitals in the South-East Thames region were lost for financial reasons?
The hon. Lady may be too young to realise that beds have been lost ever since the Health Service was established. [Interruption.] What matters far more, as I am sure the hon. Lady will agree, is that every bed used, every penny spent, and every member of staff employed in the Health Service should produce the highest standards of health. We are impressed with the progress that has been made in that area.