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Hospital Trusts

Volume 181: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will visit those hospitals in Liverpool which have made proposals for hospital trust status in order to obtain at first hand the views of the staff.

I have no immediate plans to visit the hospitals in Liverpool that have applied for trust status.

How can a Government who claim to believe in democracy ignore the wishes of the Liverpool people, as shown in a recent survey carried out by the Liverpool community health council? It revealed that 88 per cent. of staff in hospitals in Liverpool and over 92 per cent. of the public in Liverpool find the concept of opted-out hospitals entirely alien to their idea of a health service. Might not the Prime Minister, if that is what the right hon. Lady remains after 6.30 pm, try out her new-found belief in referendums by going to the people of Liverpool and carrying out a referendum in that city, where no councillors and no Members of Parliament believe in the Government's extreme right-wing doctrines?

It would be absurd to have referenda on management changes within the NHS. It is not surprising that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have managed to scare many people in Liverpool, as others have scared people elsewhere. For example, the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), who I think is an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, issued a press handout about hospitals opting out of the NHS. No hospitals are opting out of the NHS.

Given the misunderstandings that many have about opting out or trust status, is not there a need for the Secretary of State to go to places such as Liverpool to explain his plans? Many are fearful that if the Liverpool royal hospital in my constituency or the Alder Hey children's hospital, which has an international reputation, were in some way to be separated from the NHS, they would not be available to ordinary people and would not provide them with the care that they have always provided in the past. If there is a misunderstanding, why does not the Secretary of State come to Liverpool to explain in person the proposals to those who will be affected by them?

There are 66 applications for trust status and we must approve them or not approve them shortly. It would not be practicable for me to visit all those hospitals before I have to take those decisions. It is important that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) accepts, as I hope that the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) accepts, that it is his duty to get rid of the nonsense that has been spread around. I am sure that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill, who is an independent-minded man, will help us to do that.