§ The Minister for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)
We have replied to two parliamentary questions and received three letters from hon. Members and five letters from members of the general public.
§ Mr. Parry
Is the Minister aware that at present more than 551 women, many of whom are considered urgent cases, need medical treatment at the Liverpool Women's hospital, and that 226 women have been waiting for more than six months for treatment? Is that not disgraceful? Does the Minister agree that any further ward closures will lead only to misery, pain, suffering and fear among women? Is he aware that further ward or hospital closures in Liverpool will be fiercely opposed and resisted by the Health Service unions and by the Labour movement, both inside and outside Parliament?.
§ Mr. Clarke
A number of Liverpool hospitals provide services for women. The gynaecological waiting lists in Liverpool as a whole, I am glad to say, are being reduced. Consultations are still taking place on the proposals about the beds at the Women's hospital. I shall not prejudge the matter, but the health authority says that it can provide the same level of service while economising on the number of beds at that hospital.
With regard to closures in Liverpool generally, I hope that the hon. Gentleman welcomed the proposals of his own excellent local district health authority, showing how £30 million can be invested in new capital projects to provide the services that will be required in future. However, some older facilities in Liverpool will inevitably
§ Mr. Alton
Is the Minister aware that many people on Merseyside have misgivings about the reductions in the Health Service, bearing in mind that last year the Liverpool area health authority budget was reduced by £1 million? Is he further aware that, despite reduced resources, the incidence of diseases, such as cancer, is higher than anywhere else in the United Kingdom and that the provision for treatment is one of the lowest in the United Kingdom? Will he therefore come and look at the Women's hospital and other facilities on Merseyside?.
§ Mr. Clarke
The allocation of money to Liverpool is falling a little, and it is due to fall, but it is not falling as quickly as the population. As a result, spending per head in Liverpool will increase. The strategy that has been put forward by the chairman and members of the district health authority is one for congratulation, because it shows the way in which the service must change to meet up-to-date needs, as well as making the best use of the money.
§ Mr. Porter
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that some of us on Merseyside are perfectly satisfied with the amount of money that is available both in the region and in the districts? Is it not for the area health authority and the region, by dint of better housekeeping, to provide the services that are adequate at present?
§ Mr. Clarke
I wish it were not a rule of the political game that everyone should feel obliged to claim that his area is under-financed. There are always areas where we can spend more money, and there are many parts of the Health Service where we would get a much better service by continuing to improve management and eliminate waste. Liverpool district health authority has been doing a good job and is providing an excellent service within the resources that have been allocated to it.
§ Ms. Richardson
Does the Minister realise that this most recent closure of 21 beds appears to be part of a pattern of attacks on the health of women, both as patients and as workers? In addition to Liverpool, for example, we have the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, which seems to be having its philosophy turned round by being unable to have women doctors attending women patients. We have the scandalous closure of the South London hospital, about which we still hope—
§ Mr. Clarke
The hon. Lady should not see any conspiracy between district health authorities, which have not consulted each other about their proposals, each of which is sensible in its own right. Liverpool, by improving the throughput at this hospital, can maintain services. Therefore, progress can continue to be made in reducing gynaecological waiting lists.
At the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson there is just a faint possibility that every now and again a male registrar will be allowed in, because it is sharing one of the teaching posts with the University College hospital. As for the closure of the South London hospital—