asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the future development of hospital facilities in west Fife.
I have asked the health board to give further thought to its proposals for the provision of acute services in the whole of its area, including west Fife. I shall give careful consideration to the board's revised proposals when they are submitted.
That is an interesting reply. What does the Minister have in mind by asking the Fife health board to give the matter further consideration? Does he share the board's anxiety that this further review might incur a delay in phase two of the Dumfermline and West Fife general hospital, which would not be in the interests of the overall development of hospital services in west Fife? When does he expect to make a decision on this further review?
I appreciate the anxiety on this matter. The hon. Gentleman knows that there are different points of view in Fife about the board's future building programme. The original appraisal of the options open to it was based on the assumption that scope for development of the Victoria hospital in Kirkcaldy was limited. The most recent professional building advice states that further development may be possible. On that basis, I have asked the board to explore that possibility.
Is the Minister not ashamed of the latest figures for Fife, which show that more than 5,000 people are on the waiting list, 2,000 of whom have been waiting for more than one year and more than 1,000 of whom have been waiting for more than two years? Is he aware of the advice of the chief medical officer, that the waiting list will not fall substantially until the second phase of the Dunfermline and West Fife hospital is built? Will he therefore give urgent attention to the approval of the hospital scheme?
Of course I shall give urgent attention to its approval, but it is important that we get the plan right, because it will have to serve the area for some time to come. In the past seven years, three major projects have come on stream in the Fife health board area. In addition to the major projects, Fife health board, as a beneficiary of SHARE, is employing more medical and nursing staff and is attending to considerably more patients than when the Government took office.
Does my hon. Friend accept that although it is important to get this matter right, it is unfortunate that his Department has come along comparatively late in the day inviting further consideration of the position in Kirkcaldy? Is he aware that the people of Fife are grateful for the amount of new building that has been provided under this Government, one measure of which is that the rates bill for the new build since 1979 amounts to £500,000 a year?
I appreciate my hon. Friend's point. He rightly stresses the expense to the health boards, not only in Fife but elsewhere in Scotland, of local authority rates. That is not helped by the higher rating of new premises that have come on stream since 1979. I am aware of the need to make a decision, but I am equally aware of the need to make the correct decision and to consider the position in Kirkcaldy before making a final decision.