In 1979, for every 100 administrators and ancillary staff there were 140 doctors and nurses. In 1987, for every 100 administrators and ancillary staff there were 190 doctors and nurses.
Does not my hon. and learned Friend's answer reiterate the Government's commitment to the Health Service and in particular to those at the sharp end? Does it not also illustrate that the Government are moving away from bureaucracy to patient care?
It absolutely does, because that figure—which I am glad that the House has welcomed—shows not only the increase in medical staff but a very major change in administrative, clerical and ancillary staff: a sharp reduction in ancillary staff but an increase of over 63 per cent. in administrative and clerical staff working in clinically related posts. That is a major change and a fundamental reason why the NHS is serving patients better today than it ever did when the Labour party was in power.
Will the Minister note that there was nothing wrong with the ratio of administrators to doctors in Middlesbrough general hospital during the time of the child abuse crisis, when 121 children were taken into care and 98 were returned by the courts? Given that state of affairs, what does the Minister make of the doctors' statement at the weekend that 90 per cent. of the children were abused then and are abused now?
I have every confidence in the Northern regional health authority and I support the decision it has taken to bring disciplinary action against Dr. Higgs. I cannot say more now, because the matter is sub judice. However, I can say that I read with considerable surprise the letter, signed by the 11 clinicians, that appeared in The Guardian. Neither I nor my Department can see any basis for the assertion that more than 90 per cent. of those children had been abused.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the Government are to be congratulated on their policy of encouraging ancillary services to be put out to tender, which has enabled millions of pounds throughout the Health Service to be applied to patient care and has put an end to the nasty NUPE and COHSE cartel?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Competitive tendering has been a significant factor in enabling the National Health Service to treat a greatly expanded number of patients more efficiently. Once again, it is a sign of the double-talk of the Opposition that, although claiming to represent the interests of patients, they actually uphold the stranglehold of the cartel that NUPE and COHSE used to exercise over the NHS, but do no longer.