NHS Finances

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:39 am on 14th March 2006.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health 10:39 am, 14th March 2006

Of course. I do not pretend that that is the only measure, but it is clear that some aspects of morbidity in communities are not being captured by the demographic figures presented by the ONS. In so far as there are mismatches between GP practice lists and what ONS data tell us about the number of people and the nature of the population, that must, of course, be adjusted for. As we have discovered with local government and health financing, getting allocations right is never a simple matter, but it is perfectly clear that it is wrong at the moment and needs to be changed.

The hon. Member for Northavon seems to be saying that the only way to deal with the current situation is to stop reform and hold everything up. In truth, there are two considerations. The first is that the Government have put a great deal of additional money into the NHS in the absence of reform, and are now in a hurry because they did not sort many of those things out earlier. The NHS plan in 2000 should have been just that, an NHS plan that began in 2000, but many of the changes, such as PBR, or payment by results, and the tariff, are being introduced in 2006 and 2007—that is how far behind the plan is.

The second consideration is, frankly, incompetence. At the end of the last financial year, the Government did not know what the deficit was. Three months after the end of the financial year, the Secretary of State was telling the House that it was a net £140 million; it turned out to be £250 million. As the hon. Member for Northavon said, that £250 million disguised the fact that there were gross deficits of over £600 million. In the debate that we had on the Floor of the House in November, we told the Government that it looked as though net deficits would be in the order of £700 million and that gross deficits would be £1 billion. The Secretary of State said, "Oh, it will be fine. We are actually planning. All the recovery plans are in place and the net deficit this year will be lower than it was last year." However, we know from what the late, lamented Sir Nigel Crisp told the Health Committee a week or so later that a £200 million net deficit was being targeted for this year.