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Health Board Boundaries

Volume 268: debated on Wednesday 20 December 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about health board boundaries in Scotland. [5197]

We continue to consider the impact of local government reform on Scottish health board boundaries.

When I recently met people from Argyll and Clyde who were trying to persuade Clydebank to join Argyll and Clyde health board, they told me that the Secretary of State had said that there would be no changes to health board boundaries unless they were uncontroversial. If Clydebank joined Argyll and Clyde and lost its links with Gartnavel, the Western, Queen Mother's and Yorkhill hospitals, and had to manage with the appalling transport links with the Vale of Leven, that would be very controversial. Will the Minister assure me that plans to move Clydebank into Argyll and Clyde do not exist and will not exist?

We certainly have no plans to change Scottish health board boundaries in the immediate future.

While I welcome the ever-increasing amount of money that the Government are prepared to spend on health services in Scotland, may I congratulate my hon. Friend on the fact that he has almost managed to achieve parity in funding in the Ayrshire and Arran health board area? The redistribution of health service money around Scotland certainly benefits my constituents, and each and every one of them should say thank you to the Scottish Office.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We have provided substantial expenditure of £4.2 billion this year. That is an additional £121.3 million, which provides real terms growth of 0.2 per cent. There is much higher spending per head in Scotland on health than there is south of the border. In Scotland £820 a head will be spent, which is 23 per cent. higher than in England. So very high priority is being given to that area.

Will the Minister review the boundaries in Edinburgh and use that as a pretext for getting rid of his Conservative-appointed health board, which has presided over the shambles in the Royal Edinburgh hospital in my constituency, as evidenced in a secret report which shows that cleaning levels are "abysmal" and that staff shortages are chronic?

The answer is no. We are, however, considering a bid from the Royal Edinburgh hospital and I shall let the hon. Gentleman know the outcome in due course.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the quality of health services provided by the health authorities is even more important than the delineation of boundaries? Does he agree that, despite all the knocking copy from Opposition Members, the quality of the health service in Scotland is very much better than it was in 1979?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. At all times we will give top priority to the interests of patients.

When the Minister is looking at the boundaries of health boards, will he consider in particular Grampian—especially Grampian healthcare trust, whose plans for a new hospital in Stonehaven break new boundaries in the Government's push towards privatising the health service? Will he perhaps look up the pamphlet co-authored by the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1985, in which the Secretary of State wrote:

"The rise of private medicine is an excellent thing and should be encouraged even more"?
The Secretary of State has never repudiated that, and indeed claims authorship of the pamphlet in "Who's Who". Is it not a fact that the Stonehaven project is but a Trojan horse for the mission of the whole Government—not just the Thatcherite rump over there—to go ahead with the ultimate privatisation of the national health service?

The hon. Gentleman is engaging in scaremongering. The proposals for Stonehaven will result very much more quickly in the provision of a purpose-built, modern hospital than would otherwise have been possible any other way. Services will of course remain free at the point of delivery.