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Hospitals

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 4 July 1990

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2.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the hospitals currently under consideration for closure by Scottish health boards.

There are no closure submissions before Ministers at the moment, but I am aware that several boards are proposing rationalisation of their services.

Does not that answer show how out of touch the Secretary of State is with Scottish health boards? He does not know that several hospitals are earmarked for panic closure in the Lothian region, part of which he represents. The health board has earmarked for closure Longmore hospital in my constituency. Will he ensure that the board gives him sufficient evidence—which I understand is not available—to show that the breast cancer unit and geriatric facilities can be transferred to another unit, thereby preserving the quality of service? The experts tell me, as they told the Minister of State when he visited the hospital, that that is impossible.

If the hon. Gentleman had done the House the courtesy of listening to my reply, he would have heard me say that there are no closure submissions before Ministers at the moment. I am as aware as the hon. Gentleman of the proposals before Lothian health board. It will be for the health board, once it has considered the responses to its proposals, to decide whether to make closure recommendations to the Scottish Office.

I am well aware of the extremely valuable work of the breast cancer unit at Longmore hospital. Much of the discussion is about whether that valuable work could continue if the breast cancer unit transferred to an alternative location. Obviously, we would expect the health board to consider that issue carefully before making any recommendations.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say anything about Mearnskirk hospital in my constituency where Greater Glasgow health board is proposing, perfectly sensibly, the withdrawal of acute beds? My right hon. and learned Friend will soon receive a submission from Eastwood district council. Will he assure us that it will be fully considered, along with the other proposals being made by Greater Glasgow health board, to ensure that this important site is retained, at least in part, within the health service and is developed in accordance with the wishes and needs of the people of Eastwood?

I am aware of such proposals. I am happy to give my hon. Friend the assurance that they will be carefully considered to ascertain whether the objectives of my hon. Friend and Eastwood district council can be accommodated by the health service.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the size of Clydesdale constituency—almost 800 sq m with a population of 100,000. I wrote to him last week informing him of Lanarkshire health board's decision to build a new hospital at Wishaw and to upgrade its hospital at Hairmyres. It is threatening to remove acute medical services in the Clydesdale constituency. Will the Secretary of State assure the House and my constituents that he will not agree to a diminution in acute medical provision in Clydesdale?

I note carefully what the hon. Gentleman said. The health board has not put any proposals to the Scottish Home and Health Department, but, if and when any recommendations are put, I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall take into account his points and those made by others who have commented on the proposals.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the reason for many of the proposed closures is the chronic underfunding of the health service in Scotland? In the past six years, has not the Scottish Office underfunded pay awards to the health boards, excluding Glasgow, by £150 million? In Lothian alone, underfunding of pay awards amounts to £20 million—almost the exact amount that Lothian will have to make in cuts. Does not that show that Lothian's problems are due not to mismanagement but to underfunding and that, therefore, the Secretary of State will be responsible for any cuts or closures in Lothian.

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. In the current year, the Government have made available an extra £158 million, or 8.3 per cent., over the previous provision to meet priorities, including out-of-line pay and price increases. The allowances made for pay have been exactly the same for Lothian as for other health boards in Scotland. The fact that Lothian is facing a cash crisis does not arise from provision for pay, which is equal for all health boards in Scotland.