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Lothian Health Board

Volume 168: debated on Wednesday 28 February 1990

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3.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he proposes to take following the investigation of the finances of Lothian health board by Mr. Don Cruickshank.

Discussions are continuing with Lothian health board.

Is not it intolerable that the future of the National Health Service in Lothian should be decided by Mr. Cruickshank and by Peat, Marwick, McLintock behind closed doors? Will the Minister confirm that the value in real terms of the increased allocation for Lothian health board next year is just £8 million, which will be completely swallowed up and wiped out by the repayment of the loan to deal with the present crisis in Lothian health board? Meanwhile we still have a staffing freeze, closures of theatre units and beds and rock bottom morale in the Health Service in Lothian region. Can we have a proper review of the needs of the Health Service in Lothian and will the Minister ensure that the service is funded in accordance with those needs?

The hon. Gentleman seems to be labouring under a misapprehension. I cannot confirm his figure for the resources for Lothian because it is not correct. The hon. Gentleman talked about the resources available to Lothian health board and took no account of the 1 per cent. that will be available from efficiency savings, to which I know Opposition Members are opposed. As for the Peat, Marwick, McLintock report, the hon.Gentleman should know that decisions about priorities in Lothian health board will be determined by the health board, not by the chief executive, not by the consultants. The chief executive and the consultants are endeavouring to be helpful because the board has spent more than the resources allocated to it, which was discovered at a very late stage in the financial year.

Does not the Minister realise that the Secretary of State has appointed a man to preside over the Health Service in Scotland who, when chairman of Wandsworth health authority, presided over the loss of more than 100 beds and a hospital, and ward closures?

Those cuts led to no savings, but caused much harm to patient services. Even with the loss of Bruntsfield hospital and Elsie Inglis hospital, the current round of funding leaves Lothian health board with fewer resources than it needs. Its resources do not match medical inflation, and that will result in further ward and hospital closures.

It is true that the chief executive of the Health Service in Scotland was chairman of Wandsworth health authority. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will wish to acknowledge that the resources available to the Health Service in Scotland are about 25 per cent. higher per head than south of the border. Lothian is the second best funded health board in Scotland. It has benefited from the considerable expansion of services, including phase I of St. John's hospital in the constituency of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), which is the biggest single investment project in the Health Service in Scotland. I should have thought that, from time to time, Opposition Members would recognise the strength of the Health Service and help to raise morale instead of constantly pointing to the difficulties that the chief executive and others in the management of the Health Service are attempting to cope with.