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Voluntary Organisations (Acute Hospitals)

Volume 458: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2007

5. If she will make a statement on the role of voluntary organisations working in acute hospitals. (126774)

In many hospitals, voluntary organisations play an important part, and are highly regarded, in providing a range of services to patients, staff and visitors.

Will the Minister join me in recognising the excellent voluntary work and major fundraising efforts of the League of Friends of the Princess Royal hospital in my constituency? Does he share my concern that it recently purchased £27,000 of ophthalmic equipment, donated it to the hospital trust and was told by hospital bosses that they could not accept it, even though it was needed, because they did not have the funds to run it? Does he agree that that farcical situation must be urgently investigated? If so, will he meet a delegation from the League of Friends in the near future?

I pay tribute to the work of the Princess Royal League of Friends. It has done an excellent job within the hospital in raising significant amounts of money and providing services over a number of years.

The specific issue must be resolved by the League of Friends, the hospital itself and the primary care trust to ensure that there is sufficient revenue to support the use of the capital equipment. The problem should be resolved at a local level.

Specialist Parkinson’s disease nurses provide clinically effective and cost-effective information, research and specialist care to people on acute wards. Will the Minister use his specialist nurse summit on 1 May to stress to local health boards and trusts that those nurses must not be moved from their specialist role and used in normal duties on general and acute wards? Will he also attend the Parkinson’s disease reception on 17 April?

I am always willing to join my hon. Friend at any reception to which she chooses to invite me. I pay tribute to her work on highlighting the important contribution that specialist nurses make within our NHS. It is one reason I decided to host the summit in May. We need to highlight best practice, raise the status of specialist nurses, and make it clear to the health service at a local level that specialist nurses have an important role to play, especially in long-term and chronic conditions.

One of the imponderables of life is the value that the voluntary sector brings to our acute hospitals. Does my hon. Friend agree that that same service is provided in hospices the length and breadth of the country, which do a terrific job, and by other organisations such as Erskine, which provides acute services to our disabled ex-servicemen and women returning from theatres of war?

I agree with my hon. Friend, who is the hon. Member who has not resigned—at least on this occasion, Mr. Speaker.

To secure the best possible health care and social care within local communities, it is crucial that we have a partnership between the NHS, local government and the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector often has a distinct and unique role to play in securing personalised, sensitive services that are close to local communities. We should use this occasion to pay tribute to the hospice movement, which does an amazing job in difficult circumstances. We recently made £25 million available specifically for children’s hospices. We are reviewing the way in which we provide palliative care to children and are, for the first time, about to make a significant announcement on major capital investment in the hospice movement.