NHS Units (Allocation of Funds)

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st February 1993.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth 12:00 am, 1st February 1993

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what guidance has been issued by his Department on the way in which finance is to be allocated to NHS units by health authorities in Wales; what assistance he has sought from the Audit Commission in ensuring that this is done fairly and in the best interests of patient care; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Welsh Office guidance to health authorities has rightly concentrated on securing quality health care rather than the allocation of budgets to providers. The Audit Commission's current study will further inform health authorities. I am pleased to announce that I have today agreed the release of an extra £750,000 for health authorities to secure additional hospital treatment before the end of the current financial year.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

Is the Minister aware that, even with the additional money provided, there is still capacity in Llandough hospital to deal only with very urgent and emergency operations and that the hospital cannot undertake elective surgery for chest and geriatric patients? Will the Minister undertake an independent investigation into the way in which money is provided—or not provided —to the units in South Glamorgan? Will he let us have an objective view of exactly how the finance will be spread among the different units?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

What the hon. Gentleman asks for is already in hand. My officials are in touch with the health authority on the question of Llandough hospital. In terms of South Glamorgan more generally, I met the chairman and general manager on Friday afternoon, when they were able to tell me about the progress being made. In the first seven months of this year, more operations were carried out than in the previous year and by the end of this financial year they expect, like the other health authorities in Wales, to have achieved another record throughput.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

May I put it to my hon. Friend that the most important ingredient in health care is the patient? Does he accept that the proof of the pudding is in the eating and that infinitely more patients are being treated in Wales, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, than were ever treated under the Labour Government?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

I could not agree more. Let us quantify it: since this Government came to power in 1979, a further 161,000 patients per year have been treated in hospitals, as well as 126,000 more out-patients and 133,000 more day patients. All in all, the health service in Wales is now treating almost 400,000 more patients each year—and the number is increasing all the time.

Photo of Mr Gareth Wardell Mr Gareth Wardell , Gower

Will the Minister help the House by telling us how, after 1 April, he will ensure that the financing of health units in Wales will be able to continue and that enough urgent and non-urgent hospital beds will be in place? He will know that under a Welsh Office circular issued in 1991 elderly people can choose, with their relatives, not to be discharged to private nursing homes and be means tested but to have the entire cost borne by the health authority. Will he provide money for that?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Yes, we have already made money available under both headings. I have been able to announce a further £38 million for social services departments throughout Wales for care in the community and we have already announced that spending on the national health service in Wales will have increased by significantly more than the rate of inflation—by 5.2 per cent., in fact. I look forward confidently to next year's figures showing another record number of patients treated by the health service in Wales.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

rose[Interruption.] The Opposition may jeer, but my mother was born in Wales and brought up in Aberavon, so I am as Welsh as Welsh Opposition Members—and is not Wales part of the United Kingdom anyway?

Is my hon. Friend aware that only this morning, in the "Today" programme, evidence was given that more and more people are being treated by national health service trusts? Would he agree that trusts in Wales are showing themselves to be equally as successful as those in England?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

My hon. Friend is quite right. I am delighted to find a strain of Wales healthily represented in his blood. Our national health service trust in Pembrokeshire is already treating more patients this year than last and I am looking forward to the new health service trusts coming onstream from 1 April this year following suit. One obvious factor is the growth in day treatment cases. Since the Government came to power there has been a dramatic 329 per cent. increase in such cases in Welsh hospitals.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

In the light of the figures recently published by the Minister showing that the number of senior bureaucrats in the NHS in Wales has been rising almost as rapidly as the number of English Tory Members coming to Welsh Question Time to ask phoney questions—the numbers have risen from 180-odd to 850-odd—may I ask the Minister how he intends to curb the increasing number of bureaucrats and accountants who are running the NHS in Wales? If he does nothing, in five years' time there will be more accountants than medical consultants working for the NHS in Wales.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Clearly, something as important as the NHS in Wales has to be properly managed. There is no point in taking selective figures, often out of context, when what really matters is the number of patients being treated, which continues to increase in Wales. Last year was a record and the current year looks like being a record. Given the above-the-cost-of-living increase in funding that we have provided for the health service, I am confident that next year will be a record as well. That is the important test.