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Elderly Persons

Volume 980: debated on Thursday 6 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has future plans to increase the number of geriatric beds and places in old people's homes in Belfast.

Yes, Sir. Plans are in hand to increase the number both of hospital beds and of residential places for the care of the elderly in Belfast.

I am grateful to the Minister for that encouraging answer. Does he accept that, whatever other section of the Northern Ireland community is affected by the Government's financial cuts, those who are geriatric or disoriented and who cannot advance their own cause should not be affected? Will the Minister consider using Malone Place hospital—which used to be a gynaecological unit—for geriatric patients?

In the next year or two we plan to increase substantially the number of beds available to that category of patient. I shall reflect upon what the hon. Gentleman says.

Does the Minister accept that the problem involves not only the number of beds but adequate staff and facilities? While I congratulate the Minister on his small announcement, may I ask him to explain to the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) that the consequence of supporting the Government on the vote of confidence recently has been precisely to limit the amount of help that can be given to the elderly in Northern Ireland?

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) was very wise to support the Government in the vote the other night. The Government's intentions and plans do not incorporate any cuts in the provisions of health services in Northern Ireland.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that many people will be grateful to him for his answer. Could he be a little more specific and give us an indication of the number of extra beds he has planned and say whether there are any planned for East Belfast?

I have quite a collection of figures here. I believe that it would be more convenient if I were to set them out either in a written answer, if the hon. Gentleman cares to table a question, or write to him about this. However, two 72-bed geriatric units of the Ulster hospital will be completed this year.

I feel that I have been here before. The statement made by the Minister has been made regularly—

Order. That may well be so. I know that the hon. Gentleman is about to come to the question, but we are in a hurry.

Is the Minister aware that statements of that kind on provision for the elderly have been made regularly in the House by successive Conservative Governments? Is the Minister being truthful in what he is saying, bearing in mind what has been said and what has happened?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the answer I have given is very truthful. If he will come to the House again I shall be able to inform him of the actual completion of the units that we are talking about.