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Property And Works Functions

Volume 83: debated on Friday 19 July 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will announce the results of his examination of the operation of the property and works functions within his Department and within the National Health Service.

We have today issued a health circular to all health authorities on the future management of property and works in the National Health Service. I have placed copies in the Library. We have decided that there have been too many tiers of management with overlapping responsibilities for these matters within the service. The NHS capital programme will be better managed and delays in hospital building reduced by the introduction of clear definitions of responsibility between our Department, regional health authorities and district health authorities. We will be giving district health authorities greater discretion and a wider choice of sources of advice and expertise in their management of their own capital projects. We also need to continue to strengthen the ability of authorities to improve their management of property and the NHS estate. Our Department's role will in future be restricted to that of determining strategic policies and setting key objectives for the National Health Service, monitoring compliance with these and supporting the National Health Service by the production of cost effective guidance in selected key areas. We will retain a number of high quality staff to carry out this role but the total number of staff employed on works and property within our Department will be sharply reduced.Design and other consultancy services maintained by regional health authorities will be the subject of rigorous review and will be made more streamlined and efficient. Districts will be able to test the efficiency and responsiveness of any RHA services against those available from outside consultants. We will continue to insist that all Authorities should regard the rationalisation of the NHS estate and further improvement of the National Health Service's recent good record on building value for money major capital projects to cost and to time as high priorities.