HC Deb 21 November 1979 vol 974 cc379-80
16. Mr Maxton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a statement on the provision of ambulances for out-patients attending hospitals in Scotland.

Mr. Fairgrieve

My right hon. Friend's statutory obligation is to make such provision as he thinks necessary to ensure that ambulance transport is available for all who reasonably require it. No change in that position is envisaged.

Mr. Maxton

Is the Minister aware that the health boards in Scotland have received a circular from the Common Services Agency stating that no physiotherapy walking cases will be conveyed by ambulance or by hospital car; that no walking out-patients will be conveyed by ambulance or hospital car and that there will be limitations on the times at which out-patients can be picked up and taken back to their homes? Is that not a serious cut in the health services? Will the Minister now admit that this is taking place and that there has been a change in his policy?

Mr. Fairgrieve

I repeat what I said earlier. There is no cut in health services expenditure. There is an increase of £24 million and the ambulance services will benefit from that. A circular has been sent out from the ambulance service to health boards because of the trouble experienced with such things as hoaxes and also in the light of the Clegg award to the ambulance men. We have tried to have treatment carried out during the day rather than incur excessive overtime payments. With these and other economies we think that we shall be able to divert more attention to those in real need rather than to peripheral activities. That is why we are increasing the scope of the car service as a back-up to the ambulance service.