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Health Centres (Rent Charges)

Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to review the rent charges to doctors who decide to participate in health centres.

I see no reason to review the existing arrangements under which the rent for accommodation in health centres is calculated by a formula designed to recover the capital costs of the health centre over a period of 60 years.

I appreciate the points made by the Minister about rent charges, but may I draw his attention to a recent decision by the Ayrshire and Arran Health Board not to proceed with health centres at Irvine and Saltcoats because of opposition from local doctors who are concerned about the overheads charged for these centres? Has he any plans to review these overheads, in view of the legitimate complaints of local doctors?

My hon. Friend has gone to the crux of the matter, namely, the overheads, about which there have been complaints. Officials in my Department are examining the matter, and if general practitioners have ideas to put to us we are prepared to consider them.

Is the Minister aware that the escalation of all kinds of costs and expenses in running them has put the whole concept of health centres in some danger? Will he consider introducing into Scotland the practice adopted in English legislation whereby doctors are not put to extra expense by moving into health centres from their previous practices?

The hon. Gentleman fails to understand the difference in the situation between England and Scotland. In 1967, when the legislation was introduced, it was for local authorities to provide health centres. That has never been the position in Scotland. In England, changes have happened as a result of the reorganisaiton of the National Health Service. In Scotland, doctors are represented by the Medical Services Committee. The committee has not approached us, but if it does so we shall consider its representations.

Is the Minister aware that comprehensive health centres are now being placed in jeopardy by doctors because they change their minds about participating after the centres are built? Will the Minister arrange an early meeting with the Health Board, as requested by me on 3rd November?

It is regrettable that doctors are changing their minds. They should expect to pay more for much better conditions. On the question of a meeting with the Health Board, I have written to my hon. Friend saying that at present I do not think it advisable for me to meet the board. The problem is more widespread than just one area.