asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his policy towards the continued use of older non-purpose built buildings as old folk's homes and geriatric hospitals.
Each case must be considered on its merits, taking account of the condition and location of the building, the availability of finance for new buildings, and other priorities. These are matters for the local authority or health board and where my right hon. Friend's approval is necessary in respect of the proposed closure of a hospital in an old building he would take the same factors into account. Generally, however, a purpose-designed home or geriatric hospital can provide better and safer conditions for both patients and staff.
Does the Minister agree that there might be some case for establishing some guidelines? It seems that the better facilities and greater safety produced by closing an older building and spending a lot of money on a new building result in a margin of difference not all that great. Sometimes that margin does not justify the expenditure of limited resources that can be used in other and more productive ways.
One of the difficulties is that when an old building has to be brought up to standard to meet fire safety regulations and all the other relevant standards the cost involved is quite substantial. The cost for one hospital that I have in mind would be between £160,000 and £170,000. We have to measure whether it is worth spending that sort of money when for about £350,000 we can get a purpose-built unit with 30 beds, which would obviously last a great deal longer. I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says. His comments will be given consideration in any decision that we have to make.