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Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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9.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a further statement about the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a further statement on the closure of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

Having considered all the available evidence I announced on 16th May that the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, on Euston Road, should close and I asked staff urgently to consider proposals to move to alternative accommodation at the Whittington Hospital. The staff at the EGA have now confirmed that they are prepared to consider any offer of alternative accommodation, but without commitment. I have therefore invited the health authorities, representatives of the staff of the EGA and other interested parties to come together under the chairmanship of a senior official of my Department to consider detailed proposals for alternative accommodation In these circumstances I have agreed to postpone the closure of the Euston Road hospital.

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he keeps dithering over the future of this hospital? Does he not realise the immense amount of damage it does when he cannot make up his mind what should happen? Will he now give a clear promise that the hospital will be kept open?

There is no question of dithering. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) entered into a commitment rather more than two years ago in which she said that the hospital on the Euston Road site would close and that it was her view that we should seek an alternative where that facility could be provided within a district general hospital. There has been a great deal of consultation about this. It was my conclusion, after discussion with the staff of the EGA, that since they were now prepared to consider an alternative I should not be tough and insist that the closure had to be on a specific day. Certainly if I had stuck to that when negotiations about an alternative were being considered, I would have been accused in this House of being obdurate.

May I say, first, how much my right hon. Friend's decision in favour of postponement has been welcomed by the staff and patients of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital? However, can my right hon. Friend say what sort of time scale he has in mind? How long will all these consultations take? Pending the consultations, cannot he agree to do the urgent repairs which are necessary—for instance, to get the lifts working again, because these broken lifts are putting half the hospital out of commission?

I have made it clear that I hope that the discussions about an alternative will not take long. I have also made it clear that the hospital on the Euston Road site will close. In view of that, it would be quite unjustified to authorise substantial expenditure, or for the area health authority to do so, for the replacement or substitution of the lifts. But certainly essential repair work to enable the hospital to continue during such period as remains to it is the responsibility of the area health authority.