Health Spending

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th June 1991.

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Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party 12:00 am, 18th June 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what percentage of gross domestic product is spent on health in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) other European countries.

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

It is estimated that total United Kingdom spending on health as a proportion of GDP will be 6.5 per cent. this year, compared with 5.8 per cent. in 1980. We do not yet have comparable figures for other European countries.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

That is hardly surprising, as such figures would show that the percentage of GDP spent on health in the United Kingdom is significantly less than that spent in other European countries—and the GDP figure is lower as well. According to the findings of various surveys, the United Kingdom spends between 50 and 70 per cent. of the amount per patient spent by France and Germany. Given those figures, how can the Secretary of State possibly deny that the national health service is suffering from chronic and debilitating underfunding?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

The hon. Gentleman should beware of such naive comparisons. The Netherlands, for example, includes nursing homes in its health figures. [Interruption.] I refer to the 1988 figures. If we did the same, our spending figures would be increased by 0.25 per cent.

In many respects, the figures are not comparable. The figures relating to output are far more important. Our perinatal mortality record is now better than that of the United States, although that country spends nearly twice as much of its GDP on health. What matters is the efficiency of the health service, not the result of crude comparisons.

Photo of Mrs Jill Knight Mrs Jill Knight , Birmingham, Edgbaston

As we are comparing Britain's health service with its counterparts on the continent, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend has read an article that appeared this week in the British Medical Journal and which highlighted the enormous number of complaints from Italian patients, who are required to take their own bed linen and food into hospital and have to tip lavishly to attract any attention? Is my right hon. Friend aware that doctors, nurses, medical auxiliaries and pharmacists all over France were on strike last week, protesting about the French health service and, in particular, the cuts Unposed by the French Government? Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that in health matters the grass is not greener on the other side of the channel?

Photo of Mr William Waldegrave Mr William Waldegrave , Bristol West

My hon. Friend's observations confirm that we have a health service to be proud of—recent polls show that up to 80 per cent. of people are satisfied with it, including waiting times—and we are seeking to make the service more efficient. The real questions should be addressed to the Labour party. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) recently tipped the wink to the British Medical Association that under Labour about £6 billion extra would be available per year. That was reported in the British Medical Journal, although the hon. Gentleman provided no press handouts, any more than he provided press handouts in relation to COHSE. If he wishes to deny that statement, let him do so.