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NHS Finances

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:03 am on 14th March 2006.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury 10:03 am, 14th March 2006

I will not give way because quite a lot of colleagues want to speak.

We experience hit after hit in Oxfordshire. Only this week we were told that, under the purchasing parity formula in the NHS, we will lose £4.5 million. That presumably means that the single PCT that will emerge in Oxfordshire in the summer will have £4.5 million less to spend next year. Some Labour Members consider such sums to be trivial. Actually, for a trust that is having to save £15 million of unplanned spending, these slash-and-burn cuts always happen not in the most rational way but in such a way that the largest amount of money can be saved in the shortest time, and that often damages health care considerably.

We have yet to see the worst in Oxfordshire, because we have yet to know where the cuts will fall. My real concern is that, in a sense, this issue has nothing to do with the total sum of money going into the NHS. The Minister should reflect on this. The failures that occurred in Oxfordshire were failures of mechanisms. How was it that it took until halfway through the financial year for anyone to realise that anything untoward was happening? What was happening was not really untoward. The Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS trust was simply doing what it was meant to be doing: treating lots of patients. It is a major teaching hospital and research centre of excellence and it will always treat a large number of people. We all need to know from the Minister what mechanisms will be put in place to stop the type of crisis that I have described recurring year after year.

My final point is that the Thames Valley strategic health authority this year had to find, quite justifiably, an extra £15 million for Milton Keynes because the census did not take account of the fact that Milton Keynes had grown so fast. If the authority had had that extra £15 million, it would not have had to raid its reserves and borrowings to bail out Milton Keynes. It would have had some money that it could legitimately have used to help the Oxfordshire health economy to get back into balance this year. Of course, it must get back into balance, but perhaps it could have done so from a position of stability, rather than going into next year with £15 million of cuts from this year to sort out, as well as having to make substantial reductions in activity next year to avoid the "over-trading" position that we are in this year. I should be grateful if the Minister could answer those points today or write to me.