§ 9 Mr. Garel-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Wales what steps he has taken to improve the Health Service in Wales following the publication of the document "Patients First".
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts
Following consultations on the proposals in "Patients First" my right hon. Friend announced in July his initial decisions on restructuring the National Health Service in Wales in "The Structure and Management of the NHS in Wales". AHAs in Wales have been asked to submit proposals for their internal reorganisation into health management units by 31 December. Consultations on these, and on the other matters raised in the structure and management paper are proceeding—but I believe that the end result will be a better Health Service, which will indeed put patients first.
§ Mr. Garel-Jones
Will my hon. Friend confirm that that document has been widely welcomed in Wales and that, as a result of consultations, he expects a considerable improvement in the standard of service to patients to take place in the Principality?
§ Mr. Roberts
My hon. Friend is quite right. There has been wide support for our general approach, which is to bring the service closer to the patients. There are many detailed issues of great importance. We shall keep our minds open until we can review all the comments that we receive.
§ Dr. Roger Thomas
Is the Minister aware that the establishment of health management units, often outnumbering the districts that they are replacing below area level, is making the Health Service in Wales more undemocratic and unrepresentative than ever—hence their unpopularity in Wales?
§ Mr. Roberts
We have not established management units. At this stage the area health authorities have drawn up plans for establishing such units and are consulting within their areas. We have asked for the results of those consultations from the area health authorities and from other bodies by the end of the year. No decisions have yet been taken.
§ Mr. Alec Jones
Will the Minister give some indication of the number of representations received by the Welsh Office advocating the establishment of a regional health authority in Wales? Is he aware that many people have made representations to me indicating that such a body would be a genuine improvement in the democratic control of the Health Service?
§ Mr. Roberts
I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman the precise number of representations made for a regional health authority. Whatever may be its advantages, the right hon. Gentleman must realise that it would add a completely new tier to the National Health Service in Wales. There are certain cost disadvantages to that, as he knows only too well.