asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to change the role of cottage hospitals; and if he will make a statement.
I have no plans to change the role of cottage hospitals. It is for health boards, taking account of the needs of the service, to consider the functions of all their hospitals, including cottage hospitals.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that cottage hospitals have an important role in local communities, especially in the Highlands, in providing employment as well as medical care? Does he accept that that should be considered in any changes that are contemplated? Cottage hospitals are like the churches and schools; without them the Highlands would become depopulated.
I appreciate the strong feelings of the local communities that are threatened with the loss of a facility such as a cottage hospital. These strong feelings have been made clear to me by my hon. Friend and by others of my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent constituencies in the Tayside area. However, health boards have a duty to manage the resources available to them and to provide the best levels of treatment and care for the population within their areas.