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In Vitro Fertilisation

5. Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): What steps he is taking to ensure that IVF treatment is available throughout the country. [119058]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper): The decision to provide specialised infertility treatment is one for individual health authorities. This decision should be taken in the light of local needs, available resources and clinical effectiveness.

The Government are continuing to consider ways of providing fairer access to infertility services while ensuring that resources are not diverted from the key priorities of cancer, coronary heart disease and mental health.

Mr. Russell: With that answer the Minister confirms that postcoding exists when it comes to this form of

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treatment. Does she agree that that is unfair on a couple in my constituency--hence my question--who are being deprived of the service, whereas if they lived in another part of the country, it would be available to them? Surely the Government should insist on fairness throughout the country. We must end postcoding.

Yvette Cooper: We are very concerned about the postcode lottery in care, which is a legacy from the previous Government. The internal market perpetuated a postcode lottery and a money lottery. We are taking action to tackle the postcode lottery, including setting up the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the Commission for Health Improvement and referring important cancer drugs to NICE. We shall build on this in future. We shall publish shortly a survey of IVF provision throughout the country to inform local decision making.

Funding Formula

6. Mr. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central): What plans he has to review the formula for distribution of funding between health regions and individual health authorities to take account of the impact of poverty on health. [119059]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): On 24 March 1999, my right hon. Friend asked the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation to undertake a wide-ranging review of national health service resource allocation.

The review of the formula will ensure that the health care needs of populations, including the impact of deprivation, will be the driving force in determining future health allocations. We want a fairer formula that contributes to our goal of reducing health inequalities.

Mr. Lloyd: I think that it is common knowledge that people in constituencies and cities such as mine are among the poorest in the country. As a result, they live shorter lives, which are punctuated by more frequent episodes of ill health. Does my hon. Friend agree thatthe last thing that my constituents need is another Conservative Government, who would widen the gap between the poor and the better off, and would ask my poor constituents to pay for health care? Does he agree also that the time for redistribution to ensure that health funding matches health need is now, when the Government are putting record sums of money into the health service? That process would make things much easier for everybody else.

Mr. Hutton: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. There is little doubt that it would be a disaster for the people of Manchester if the Conservatives were ever returned to office to implement the policies that they are proposing for the national health service. We should not forget that the Tories found it impossible to use the two words "health inequalities". We recognise that there are serious health inequalities in our society, which continue to scar communities throughout the country, including those in Manchester. My hon. Friend will be aware that, thanks to the measures that we have taken this year, an additional £30 million is going into the NHS in Manchester. In addition, Manchester is a health action zone, which is being supported by nearly £12 million

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of additional resources. His constituents face serious challenges. We are determined to rise to them, but the Conservative party would not.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): Does the Minister appreciate that some of the longest waiting lists are in Surrey, where the length of the waiting lists has led to the effective dismissal of the chief executive of the East Surrey hospital for her political failure to meet, within the resources made available to her, the political targets imposed on her? When reconsidering the formula, should the Minister not bear in mind that the effective increase in Surrey will be less than 2 per cent. in real terms? Therefore, there is no confidence in Surrey that the money made available to Isobel Gowan's successor as chief executive will be sufficient for him to be able to carry out the task that the Government have set him.

Mr. Hutton: The hon. Gentleman usually does his homework meticulously, but I am afraid that he has not done so on this occasion. If he wants to check allocations to the East Surrey health authority for this year, he will find that it will have a cash increase of 8.26 per cent., which is a real-terms increase of 5.62 per cent. Uncharacteristically, he is quite wrong about these matters. This Government, unlike the one whom he supported, are determined to ensure that we have a genuine national health service that provides high-quality care right across the country. That, I am afraid, was not the legacy that we inherited from the previous Administration.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there are inequalities in health care not only in inner cities, but in constituencies such as mine where people in wards such as Bewsey, Poplars and Hulme suffer much higher rates of debilitating long-term illnesses than the areas that surround them? Will he also bear in mind that people in such wards have never been able to buy private health care because they simply could not afford to? That is why the private wing in the grounds of Warrington hospital went bust. When he considers future allocations, will he ensure that the areas that I have mentioned receive their fair share of resources, which they were denied during 18 years of Tory Government? Will he look favourably on the application of Warrington hospital to use the Daresbury wing to provide orthopaedic facilities for all the people of Warrington and not just for those who can afford to pay for them?

Mr. Hutton: We shall certainly consider that, and I agree with my hon. Friend about many of the points that she made. I tried to emphasise that we want a system that guarantees fairer funding right across the national health service, which was not the case with the arrangements left in place by the previous Administration. She is right to draw attention to deprivation and health inequalities in her constituency and such problems are found all over the country. Unlike our predecessors, we are determined to ensure that the NHS provides high-quality care and improves at a faster rate the health of those who live in the poorest and most deprived parts of the country.

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New Opportunities Fund

7. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): How much of the £150 million committed from the new opportunities fund to combat cancer has been distributed. [119060]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper): Some £116.25 million from the new opportunities fund has been made available for cancer services in England and £93 million of that has already been allocated across the country for new cancer equipment. A further £23.25 million will be spent on palliative care and support and information services. Successful applicants for this money will be announced in September 2000.

Mr. Robathan: Does not the Minister, in her heart, agree that state health care should be funded by Government money and not by lottery money? However, is she aware that, if we are to have such funding, although that £150 million was trumpeted with fanfares and welcomed by the Prime Minister and the previous Secretary of State for Health, Leicestershire health authority is having to make a bid for a health care initiative for disadvantaged communities? Would it not be better to provide a CT scanner that would benefit all the people of Leicestershire than to have such gimmicks?

Yvette Cooper: I strongly agree with the way in which the new opportunities fund is being spent, and I think that the people of Britain also agree. They would certainly far rather have the money spent on important cancer equipment than on the Churchill papers. I am proud that the moneyfor palliative care is being spent on disadvantaged communities, because this Government, unlike the previous one, are committed to tackling health inequalities and the unfair lottery of care across the country.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge): Is the Minister aware that the director general of the Cancer Research Campaign will give evidence to the Select Committee on Science and Technology tomorrow that the use of Temodal, the revolutionary brain cancer drug developed by Cancer Research Campaign's own scientists here in Britain, is eight times higher in Germany than in Britain, five times higher in Italy, three times higher in France and twice as high in Spain and Greece? Against the backdrop of the Government's rhetoric of priority to cancer services, does the Minister consider it acceptable that a world-class cancer drug developed in Britain with voluntary contributions made by the British people should be freely available in other EU countries, but available to only one in four of British patients who could benefit from it?

Yvette Cooper: We take seriously the lottery of care across the country with regard to cancer drugs, which is why we referred the taxanes to NICE as a matter of early priority. We will shortly make an announcement about the next wave of cancer drugs to be referred to NICE, and Temodal will be one of those drugs.

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