Expenditure Changes

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Work and Pensions Minister 2:30 pm, 30th March 2010

What mechanism he plans to use to determine changes to expenditure on health services in the next four years.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

Overall primary care trust funding rose by 5.5 per cent. in this financial year and it will rise by 5.5 per cent. in the financial year 2010-11. Under Labour, these rises of 11.3 per cent. overall will be locked in for two further years up to 2013. In addition, the NHS is looking to make savings of £15 billion to £20 billion, which will be reinvested in NHS budgets.

Photo of Paul Rowen Paul Rowen Shadow Work and Pensions Minister

I am sure that the Minister is aware of a leaked letter sent by the chief executive of the North West strategic health authority to PCTs calling on them to prepare cuts of 10 per cent. across the board and 15 per cent. in operational services. Such cuts include the shutting of Rochdale's accident and emergency department from 12 o'clock at night. Will the Minister admit, and stop trying to fool people about the fact, that the Government are planning real cuts after the election?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale PCT will receive £358 million and £378 million in this financial year and next, which is an increase over the two-year period of £38.4 million, or 11.3 per cent. That is what we are planning for the hon. Gentleman's area. I should tell him that, contrary to what his website says, there are no "secret plans" to close his accident and emergency department overnight. There are concerns about understaffing in A and E and the board will examine how to address that in due course, but no decision has been made about closing the A and E department overnight.

Photo of Ian Cawsey Ian Cawsey Labour, Brigg and Goole

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend has not been looking at my website. When he reviews expenditure for the next two years, will he consider the impact on other departmental budgets? I have recently been dealing with a difficult and complex mental health case of a constituent. It involved a significant cost to the taxpayer, arising mainly through the police and the Prison Service, from which my constituent received no care or treatment to meet his needs. Can we ensure that as we examine our health service expenditure for the next four years, the mental health needs of our society are given a greater priority?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

My hon. Friend is right that we need to ensure, in accordance with the Bradley report, that mental health issues are given a very high priority. We heard questions earlier about assaults on staff and relevant matters; mental health issues might be a factor in such cases. The NHS and other public services must, increasingly, address that area.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

The Conservatives are committed to a real-terms increase in the NHS budget each year in the next Parliament. Is that a commitment that the Minister can match?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

As I have already indicated, as far as we are concerned there will be an 11.3 per cent. increase this year and next year, and we are locking that increase in for the NHS for a further two years. Overall, for the next three years, we are going to see an increase not only on current budgets, but again next year.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

The House will note that the Minister has merely said what Ministers have said before-there will be flat, real-terms funding in 2011-12 and 2012-13-so he cannot match the commitment that I have made. How can he reconcile his answer with the plans of strategic health authorities across the country which include cuts of 10 per cent. or more in staffing in hospitals?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

As far as we are concerned, we are guaranteeing primary care trust budgets-that is what we are talking about: front-line services-in real terms. We are going to see an increase in those budgets, and we have already seen substantial increases in staffing. Everyone out there who is watching these proceedings and considering how to vote at the next election will remember that the Conservatives left the NHS on its knees. After we came into office in 1997, we got it up off its knees. It is now good and we can make it great. The hon. Gentleman could never do that.

Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

For all that bluster, the right hon. and learned Gentleman still cannot match the commitment we have made to real-terms increases for each year of the next Parliament-and, indeed, for the whole NHS budget. What about capital budgets? In the operating framework that was sent out to the NHS, the Labour Government have told it to expect a 50 per cent. reduction in capital expenditure over the course of the next spending review. How can he and his Secretary of State go around making promises of capital expenditure, as he did at Liverpool's Broadgreen hospital yesterday, given that Labour is committed to halving the capital budget for the NHS, while we are not?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

The hon. Gentleman voted against the Wanless report and did not want national insurance to be increased for the NHS, and the Conservatives did not provide any of the extra funding that we have put into the health service in the past decade. Does anyone seriously think that they can be trusted with the NHS? I suspect that most members of the public do not. We will be able to test that in due course at the election. If people are asked who they can trust with the NHS, they have only to look at the Conservative record and then at ours to know that only Labour can be trusted with it.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping Labour, Sherwood

Despite record increases in funding, all nine PCTs operating in the east midlands do not reach the Government's own funding target. Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that part of the issue is fast population growth in the east midlands? Is not the solution to ensure that new population figures are fed into the funding formula as quickly as possible?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

My hon. Friend is quite right. We need to ensure that the funding formula properly and accurately reflects issues related to population change, which can be significant in particular areas. We need to work through some of those issues, taking a great deal of care, with the other Departments that are affected by this issue.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee, Chair, Children, Schools and Families Committee

Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at the report of the Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families on children's centres, which was published yesterday, when he is thinking about expenditure over the next four years? Will he consider the criticism that the health sector is often the weaker partner with the Department for Children, Schools and Families? Can we see a greater commitment in both resources and commitment to the children's centres, which are doing a wonderful job of cutting down the silos that we see too often in health and education in the early years?

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health

My hon. Friend is quite right. Children's centres are absolutely crucial in breaking down barriers and improving children's health and well-being. That is why the Government will ensure that funding for children's centres is given due priority-unlike the Opposition, who we know plan to cut funding for children's centres.