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Hospitals And Health Services

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he will make it his policy that no final decision will be made on future hospital and health service provision in South Glamorgan and other Welsh health authority areas, pending the outcome of the consultative processes currently in progress; and if he will make a statement.

It is already the policy of my right hon. Friend not to make a final decision on proposals for future Health Service provision that are referred to him until the relevant consultation process is complete.

The Minister will be aware of the excellence of the Royal Hamadryad hospital in my constituency, and of the fact that it appears on the consultative document very close to the beginning of the 10-year period, as does the children's ENT hospital in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the position of those hospitals will not be prejudiced and that no decisions in line with the policy that he has outlined will be taken until the consultative process is over? Will he reassure people who are worried that it comes so close to the beginning of the consultative process that that is the case?

Will the hon. Gentleman also confirm that no decision has been taken about the district hospital in the docks area which at the moment is blighting the only area of factory land available in the city?

I can certainly confirm that no decision will be taken until the conclusion of the consultative process. That is what I have said before. I note what the hon. Gentleman said about hospitals in his constituency and in other constituencies.

Will my hon. Friend take account of the fact that the Sully hospital building is among the best hospital buildings in the South Glamorgan area? Apparently the health authority has no further use for that hospital in the National Health Service. Will he look closely at this matter, because this is a splendid building which is admirably sited and has plenty of land? Surely it is highly desirable.

I can only repeat to my hon. Friend exactly what I have said up to this point, but I can add that his support over many years for Sully hospital has been widely noted.

With regard to Health Service provision, will the Minister seek to ease the financial situation facing low-paid ancillary workers in the National Health Service? Will he also look at the financial position of medical laboratory scientific officers, who are making a substantial contribution to the well-being of the National Health Service? In my constituency some Health Service ancillary workers are paid £60 a week. That is less than half the £135 per week that is the European Community poverty level wage.

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said. These matters are generally decided at national level. Some people might wish that it were otherwise, but that is the position and all that I can do is to take note of what the hon. Gentleman says has said.

Can my hon. Friend confirm that as part of the consultation procedures he will discuss with the health authorities in Wales the present poor record of putting services out to tender, compared with the position in the English regions?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. We are looking for a greatly improved procedure in the coming year and we have been promised that by health authority chairmen.

Has the Minister seen the representations made today to the Government by the three royal colleges of medicine that acute hospital services have almost reached breaking point? Is he also aware of an article in the British Medical Journal of 21 November by Russell Hopkin, the unit general manager at University hospital, Cardiff, saying that we face a similar crisis in Wales? In this context of an impending breakdown crisis, is it not incredible that there is a standing Welsh Office instruction to Welsh health authorities to try to save an extra 0·5 per cent. every year on spending in this very area of acute services?

It takes the biscuit to have the right hon. Gentleman lecture us. He was a Minister in the Government who saw spending on hospitals fall.

The right hon. Gentleman saw pay cut by over 20 per cent., and saw the pay of consultants cut. When he left government he left the Health Service in uproar, and that is why we have been in government for the last nine years.