asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consideration has been given to a possible change in the administration of the Royal Victoria group of hospitals as a separate unit.
The Eastern Health and Social Services Board is considering the future administration of the Royal group of hospitals, both in the light of guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Social Services in June 1981 and the views expressed in the Oliver review body report.I expect the board's proposals in May and I shall consider them then.
I accept the Minister's answer, but does he agree that there are good reasons for further examining the situation, particularly in view of the specialist work done at the Royal Victoria hospital and the apparent waste of resources in the district arising both from the security situation and the confusion in audit managing?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question, because it gives me the opportunity to say two things. First, I take seriously the point that he makes about the apparent waste of resources and the difficult position of the Royal Victoria hospital. When the recommendations are considered next month we shall take the hon. Gentleman's views into account.Secondly, this is the first time in 10 months that a Minister has stood at the Dispatch Box to answer a question on the health and social services of the Province, which with social security accounts for £1·5 billion a year, or about 45 per cent., of Government expenditure. I fully appreciate the problems that hon. Members from Northern Ireland have in representing their constituents, but issues such as the Royal Victoria hospital might well benefit from examination in the new Assembly.
Because of its location, patients, doctors, nurses, staff and, indeed, visitors to the Royal Victoria hospital are in great jeopardy from the Provisional IRA. Will the Government consider closing the hospital and building a new large hospital on the outskirts of Belfast, where there is a desperate need for proper medical facilities?
I can give only a short and sharp answer, "No, Sir".