HC Deb 18 June 1981 vol 6 cc1165-6
6. Mr. Dunlop

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans exist for the modernisation of hospitals west of the Bann.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Patten)

Plans exist for the extension of Altnagelvin hospital, the implementation of which must await the availability of funds. The modernisation of other hospitals west of the Bann will be covered in proposals for the development of services submitted by health and social services boards to the Department of Health and Social Services this year under a new planning system. The Department will then prepare overall plans for the services in the Province, taking account of priorities and the availability of resources.

Mr. Dunlop

Could not some of the money saved by shelving the Antrim complex be effectively used for much-needed improvements in, say, the Mid-Ulster hospital at Magherafelt and the Tyrone county hospital at Omagh, both of which provide acute services for their areas?

Mr. Patten

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern for those two hospitals in his constituency, both of which continue to provide excellent acute services for the people of the area. They will undoubtedly receive attention under the planning system from the Western and Northern boards, both of which are in communication and having discussions with my Department about future modernisation and planning of the two hospitals.

Mr. McCusker

Will the Minister ensure that in the modernisation programme no public funds are wasted on the provision of facilities for sectarian religious worship?

Mr. Patten

I assure the hon. Gentleman that no funds are permitted to be spent in any part of the Health Service in Northern Ireland to promote sectarian worship in hospitals. It is proper for hospitals to provide for worship within their borders, but the chapels or whatever are open to all religious denominations.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Does the hon. Gentleman not understand that we have had plans enough down the years, and that it is not plans that we want any longer but action? Is he not aware that, because of the plans, the health and social services boards held up modernisation and so on at existing hospitals waiting for the new ones to be built, which has made the situation a great deal worse?

Mr. Patten

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern for the planned modernisation of Altnagelvin hospital in his constituency. The Department of Health and Social Services is in contact with the hospital authorities to plan for the four or five years that will elapse before a start can be made on the highly capital intensive programme of extension for the hospital, costing £.10.7 million at 1981 prices.

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