Borders Health Board

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 5 February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip 1:47, 5 February 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the level of additional resources to be made available to Borders health board for the year 1997–98 relative to the average level in Scotland [12883]

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Because we have made health a priority, Borders health board received an extra £3.3 million, which is a 3.7 per cent. increase and above the national average increase of 3.5 per cent. Had we given those funds to local government, again health interests in the Borders would have received less.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, but, leaving capital aside and considering recurrent and non-recurrent expenditure, does he accept that the settlement for the Borders health board region next year is the lowest of any health board region in Scotland? Is he aware that, on Monday, the Secretary of State for Scotland came to Selkirk and tried to argue that local people should thole a massive shortfall in local authority funding on the ground that he was giving increased priority to health in Scotland?

According to my figures, when we consider recurrent and non-recurrent expenditure, the increase is 2.55 per cent. That is the lowest increase in mainland Scotland. Will the Minister consider the matter, review the settlement and give a personal guarantee that, if there is any suggestion that patient care could be prejudiced in the next financial year, he will make good any shortfall and do away with this ministerial mean-mindedness with regard to public service provision in south-east Scotland?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Borders health board received an allocation above the national average. Hospital and community health services in Borders will receive some £69 million recurrent expenditure and £1 million non-recurrent expenditure next year. The £1 million is less than 2 per cent. of the hospital and community health services allocation for 1997–98, but it is important that the non-recurrent element can be used for restructuring and investments to boost services in future. We are committed to continuing all allocations to health boards by a fair population-based formula. I repeat the commitment that I have given the House: we are determined to increase spending for the NHS in real terms year by year—a commitment that has not been matched by Her Majesty's Opposition.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that Borders is not the only region where increases have taken place? In south Scotland—in Ayrshire—has not expenditure on health care gone through the roof? It is well above the 50 per cent. real terms increase per head over recent times—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I must caution the hon. Gentleman that we were in the Borders; I am sure that the Minister will reply appropriately about the Borders.

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

Just as a substantial allocation has been made for Borders, so the allocation throughout Scotland has been made on the basis of fairness. We will ensure that all parts of Scotland are properly catered for.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Will the Minister take note of the fact that, when my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) visited the Borders general hospital during the Christmas recess, he found that acute beds were being blocked by elderly people who should be cared for in the community or in nursing homes? That problem is caused by the lack of financial resources both to the health board and to the local authority. It cannot be in patients' interests. Will the Minister undertake to examine the problem?

Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West

The total increase in social work grant-aided expenditure for Borders is 8.3 per cent., but if the right hon. Gentleman's recommendations for enormous increases to local government expenditure were implemented, there would be substantially less for health. We have given top priority to the NHS. That is our commitment. It will remain our commitment, and it will generally be supported by the electorate.