HC Deb 17 May 1978 vol 950 cc457-9
12. Mr. Galbraith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects additional facilities to be provided so that patients from Dumbarton district do not require to use Gartnavel Royal Hospital.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Facilities at the Vale of Leven Hospital, which will be opened in the current financial year, will meet part of the psychiatric needs of patients from Dumbarton district. It is not possible to predict when the remaining needs of the district will be met, as this depends on the completion of major building schemes which are still at the planning stage.

Mr. Galbraith

Is the hon. Gentleman aware how extremely frustrating it is for my constituents, who have the Gartnavel Royal Hospital on their doorstep? Instead of being able to go to that hospital for treatment, they are sent miles away. Is this part of the egalitarian policy of the Government, to make everybody unhappy if everybody cannot be happy? To what extent does the Minister accept responsibility for this state of affairs? Is it not a fact that in previous answers to me the Minister said that it was the responsibility of the health boards? I see him nodding his head. He is acting like Pontius Pilate, and is washing his hands.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister has had time to do more than wash his hands while the hon. Gentleman has been asking his question.

Mr. Ewing

I do not accept any responsibility for this problem. It arose because of the reorganisation of the NHS carried through by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) under the last Conservative Government's administration. What has happened in the years since then is that the Argyll and Clyde Health Board and the Greater Glasgow Health Board have been unable to come to an arrangement that facilities for the patients that we are discussing should be provided in one part of the area as opposed to another. In trying to sort out the problem left to me by the hon. Member for Dumfries, I have called the health boards together to get them talking about this problem so that we can solve it. At present, only the patients are suffering, and that is in no one's interests.

Mr. Craigen

Will the Minister have an early meeting with the Greater Glasgow Health Board to discuss the current level of geriatric hospital provision in the north-west of the city, and particularly the provision for psycho-geriatric cases, which seems to be on the point of collapse?

Mr. Ewing

I do not accept that services are on the point of collapse. That is overstating the case. However, it is an open secret that we are concerned about the provision of geriatric facilities in the whole of the Greater Glasgow board's administrative area, and we are constantly discussing the problem with the board. My hon. Friend will know that a proposal is under consideration for a new mental hospital in the north-west of Glasgow. That development would be in band C of the building programme.

Mr. MacCormick

I am glad that the Minister is bringing together the Argyll and Clyde board and the Greater Glasgow board, but will he also use his influence to try to ensure that the services of specialists from Glasgow will be continued in further-flung parts of Argyll, because the only alternative is for people to have to travel to Glasgow?

Mr. Ewing

What happens in a health board's area, in the terms that the hon. Gentleman has put his question, is the responsibility of the board, and it would be wrong for Ministers to become involved in the sort of detail that he has raised. No doubt the Greater Glasgow Health Board will note his comments when the report of our Question Time is read.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Will my hon. Friend ignore the impassioned plea of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) for a UDI for the Hillhead constituency, and bear in mind that the Gartnavel Royal Hospital, which is a very large general hospital in Glasgow, necessarily serves an area very much larger than the Hillhead area, and that the Dumbarton area is very near it? It cannot be more than two miles away.

Mr. Ewing

It must be accepted that health services in the West of Scotland generally throw up problems that we do not have in other parts of Scotland. This is because of the size of the area and the population covered. We must consider what has been said in this Question time. I tell my hon. Friend, who is a doctor, that I do not ignore any impassioned pleas on behalf of patients. We hope that in the not-too-distant future we can sort out the problem to the satisfaction of all concerned.