Health Service Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 17 February 1997.

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Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger , Pembroke 12:00, 17 February 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has received on the funding of the health service in Wales in 1996–97 and on his proposals for 1997–98. [14448]

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

Eleven letters and 27 parliamentary questions.

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger , Pembroke

Did those representations include the concerns expressed by many people throughout Wales about the rocketing costs of GP fundholding management and computers, which total £9.2 million this year alone? Is the Minister aware that, if half that amount were spent on addressing soaring waiting lists, an extra 1,570 hip replacements, 4,600 hernia operations or 5,700 cataract operations could be performed in Wales? Would that not be a far better way to spend scarce national health service resources—on patients—rather than on wasteful, unnecessary and dogma-driven bureaucracy?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

We are addressing waiting lists. The hon. Gentleman's health authority of Dyfed Powys is making very good use of that money to bring down its waiting lists. Its waiting list of more than 12 months is falling, and its waiting list of more than 18 months is falling significantly. That is better than the Welsh average. He knows full well that we will increase spending on the health service in the coming financial year by 4.1 per cent. Furthermore, we have pledged to increase it every year in the next Parliament by more than the rate of inflation. What is he doing about the ominous silence from his own Front Benchers, who will stick within the spending plans? In the light of their various other commitments, will a Welsh Assembly be paid for out of the national health service in Wales?

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

Is the Minister aware that, 10 years ago, Cynon Valley council asked the Welsh Office to fund a survey into the link between health and the former furnacite plant in Abercwmboi? That request was refused at that time. Is he further aware that, 10 years on, in a four-hour period, 50 women in Abercwmboi consulted a medical solicitor because of their concerns about breast cancer, and that the incidence of cancer in that small community is very high compared with the average? Will he at last do something about that and make funds available so that we can conduct a proper survey into the link between that past industrial process and the health of people who live in Cynon Valley?

Photo of Mr Gwilym Jones Mr Gwilym Jones , Cardiff North

That is clearly a matter for local representation in Cynon Valley and, of course, for Bro Taf health authority. I do not in any way underestimate the importance of the local health authority giving the most careful consideration to that factor, but the formula seeks to distribute the available moneys between all the health authorities on the best and fairest basis available, with particular regard to mortality. I anticipate that we will review that formula to ensure that it remains up to date and the fairest and most appropriate basis for distributing the moneys.