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Hospital Development In Wales

Volume 447: debated on Monday 6 February 1984

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2.48 p.m.

My Lords I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many new district general hospitals have been built in Wales since 1978–79, and what has been the cost of this initiative.

My Lords, a new district general hospital has been completed since 1978–79 at Bodelwyddan in Clwyd and major district general hospital developments have been completed on the sites of the Royal Gwent and St. Woolos Hospitals in Newport, Gwent. The cost of these developments at current prices is about £60 million. In addition, the new district general hospital at Bangor in Clwyd is virtually complete and will be opened in the spring, and major construction is in progress on new hospitals at Bridgend and Llanelli and the redevelopment of existing hospitals at Wrexham and Morriston. The estimated cost of these at current prices is £76 million.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that very full information. How does this Government's performance in hospital building in Wales compare with that of the late Labour Government?

My Lords, we have a good record but, to be quite fair to the Opposition, I do not think that they necessarily had a very bad one. Major construction works can seldom be attributed solely to any particular government because they go through a process starting with identifying a need and running right through to commissioning and getting patients treated in the hospital. In Wales, Her Majesty's Government have vigorously pursued the hospital building plans which they inherited, and have pursued positive initiatives to improve services for the handicapped and the elderly and to develop regional services. If a commitment can be judged in purely financial terms, total expenditure on the National Health Service in Wales this year is expected to be nearly £800 million, an increase in real terms of 9 per cent. on the spending plans we inherited.

My Lords, is it not a fact that at the present time seven other hospitals, or parts of hospitals, are being constructed at a possible cost of £76 million?

My Lords, I am not entirely sure whether the figure that my noble friend gives is correct, but certainly there are plans which indicate that the amount that has been spent by this present Government has been in excess of what was inherited towards the end of the period of government of the party opposite.

My Lords, will the Minister accept my thanks for being so fair about the record of the Department at the time when I was Secretary of State? Will he confirm that the three hospitals that have already been completed and the one hospital that will shortly be completed were all under construction in 1978–79, and therefore represented the pre-1978 capital programme? Will the noble Lord also confirm that since 1978–79 the hospital capital programme has slackened substantially in Wales? Perhaps he could say when the construction work will commence in Wrexham and also on the third hospital in Gwent, an area of very high morbidity?

My Lords, what I can tell the noble Lord is that the estimate in capital expenditure for this year, 1983–84, is £39.8 million and in 1979–80 it was £36 million, which was inherited from his Government's time. The noble Lord asked me some other questions about the Wrexham hospital. Perhaps he could repeat them?

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, for his interest in Welsh hospitals, which I know will be of great encouragement in Wales? May I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, for his pronunciation? However, is it not the case that the only hospital to have been started in the Principality since 1979 is the one at Bridgend?

My Lords, one of the complications in answering a question about Wales is that some of the answers which I have are written in the Welsh language, and some in English, so I have to translate them back again. I am glad that the noble Lord is not stretching me any further with my Welsh pronunciation. I think what the noble Lord says is correct. If he is in fact not correct—and I am sure he is—I shall write to him.

My Lords, in regard to the figures which the noble Lord has just given, would he tell the House whether they are truly comparable? That is to say, are they on a real basis or at current prices?