HC Deb 29 March 1965 vol 709 cc1196-8
39. Mr. R. W. Elliott

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the low degree of priority given to maternity hospitals in the north-east of England in the new hospital building programme; and what action he will take.

Mr. Loughlin

No, Sir. The Newcastle Regional Hospital Board"s programme includes five maternity schemes now in progress and four more at present planned to start in the next five years, all in the North-East.

Mr. Elliott

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the research which has been going on during the past few years —it was mentioned in reply to Question No. 38—indicates that in some areas there is a higher birth-wastage rate than in others? Does not the evidence suggest that maternity hospital facilities in the north-east of England should be increased?

Mr. Loughlin

I do not know precisely what the hon. Gentleman means by "birth-wastage rate". If he means that mortality in relation to live births is higher in some regions, I agree. As regards the North-East, we hope to increase the number of maternity beds from the present 1,080 to 1,685 as soon as we possibly can.

Mr. Popplewell

Will my hon. Friend ensure that there is no unnecessary delay in authorising this expenditure? The Newcastle Regional Hospital Board pressed the previous Administration for years to make up the scarcity of beds. Is my hon. Friend aware that there has been a lot of talk about a new general hospital and further extensions to mental and other hospitals for very many years, and will he now ensure that real progress is made as speedily as possible?

Mr. Loughlin

As my right hon. Friend said in his statement on 8th February, he is now reviewing the hospital programme. The question of getting the priorities right is one of the matters which we shall take into account.

Lord Balniel

Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that last year a substantially greater proportion of the beds in the hospital programme was allocated for the maternity service, and, in fact, 600 extra maternity beds were provided? Will he give an assurance that this trend towards a greater proportion will be continued in the next two years?

Mr. Loughlin

We are not going to give any assurances in advance of the review. It would be silly to do so. Although the noble Lord may be satisfied with the increase in maternity beds last year. his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) is not.

Dame Irene Ward

I am not either.