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Sunderland General Hospital

Volume 202: debated on Tuesday 21 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many beds were available at the intensive care unit at Sunderland general hospital in (a) December 1990 and (b) December 1991.

Five beds were available at the intensive care unit throughout both of the months named.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, for most of last year, only four of the seven beds in the Sunderland intensive care unit were operating, that five are now operating, although there is a staff shortage, and that the future of the fifth bed is not clear? Is he aware also that during that time scale many seriously ill patients had to be turned away and had to go to other hospitals and that patients using the unit had to be taken out of it prematurely so that others more seriously ill could take their place? How does that square with the repeated claim that the national health service is safe in Tory hands?

It is true that, on occasions last year, there were staff shortages in the intensive care unit at the hospital. The health authority has made it clear that it is initiating an inquiry to establish the levels of staffing and back-up staffing that are necessary to ensure that there are no shortages. I am advised that there were no serious repercussions for any patient at Sunderland general hospital last year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Sunderland general hospital will receive an investment of £19 million this year, of which £11 million is to be spent on a new acute ward block? That is part of Northern regional health authority's largest-ever capital investment, and it has been brought about by the Government.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the local example in Sunderland of the greatest-ever capital investment programme taking place in the national health service. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) might have mentioned that the local health authority has committed itself to eliminating all waiting lists of more than 12 months by the end of this calendar year.