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Volume 887: debated on Monday 3 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales if, in view of the special problems faced by the Powys Area Health Authority, he will introduce special measures to help Powys.

My right hon. and learned Friend is conscious of the area's special needs and will take them into account in allocating revenue and capital resources to the authority for the coming financial year. We are also carrying out an operational research study into the area's ambulance service needs and are considering what other help may be given.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the difficulties experienced by this area. Further, he will know that it is as sparse an area as any in Wales and as large an authority as any other. Will he consider urgently the upgrading of some of the smaller hospitals into community hospitals, in view of the fact that the area has no general district hospital? Will he press upon his colleagues in other Departments the need to consider the question of travelling to visit hospitals, in view of increased costs?

I am aware that Powys is 80 miles long. The Department knows well its special problems. I should like my hon. Friend to know the increased revenue resources for the area health authority. It will be significantly above the average for Wales as a whole. As a major new hospital for the area is not possible, capital for other projects will be weighted materially in its favour. That was one of the matters that my right hon. and learned Friend hinted at when he recently addressed Powys County Council. On the vexed question of travel expenses, all I can say is that we are conscious that the cost of travelling to hospital can be heavy, but in these times of economic stringency I cannot hold out any promise at this stage.

In the allocation of area health authority financial resources for next April, will the Minister reconsider the position of the area health authority of Gwynedd? As he told the authority earlier last week, it has been seriously under-funded. Will he consider Gwynedd's position? It has 8 per cent. of the population and a high percentage of elderly people, yet it received only just over 6 per cent. of the total financial allocation for the last financial year?

The Government know of Gwynedd's problem. Already we can say that we have given an additional £1·5 million for the current financial year. We shall ensure in the years ahead that Gwynedd has a larger slice of the cake.

Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the proposed new general hospital at Bangor, which is so urgently needed, will be started this year? Does he realise that this is a matter that affects the confidence of the area health authority and all the community health councils in the area?

My right hon. Friend has waged a 10-year campaign to ensure that Bangor has a district general hospital. I am glad to say that our plans are to begin the hospital later this year.