§ 3. Mr. Alfred Morris
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take action to avert the closure of up to eight hospital wards in south Manchester.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. John Patten)
If any such proposals come to us, under well-established procedures, Ministers will decide on their merits.
§ Mr. Morris
Is the Minister aware of the district administrator's statement that his health authority has done everything that it can to balance its budget by efficiency savings and by reducing equipment, maintenance and building programmes, but that it may still have to close a maternity ward, a children's surgical ward, a chest ward, a chest clinic and even a cancer ward at Christie hospital at weekends? Is it not clear, as the community health council insists, that patient care is now at risk in south Manchester? In view of the Government's oft-repeated assurances that they will protect patient care, will the Minister now act urgently to correct the underfunding of this health authority?
§ Mr. Patten
I have been following events in south Manchester with care. What the right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten is the increased resources that have been put into south Manchester over the past two years— an additional million of capital and an additional £1.2 million of revenue for cardiology and renal services. More patients are being treated in south Manchester than ever before. There is no truth in the assertion that patients are suffering there. No final decisions have been made about any of the wards to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and, if they are made, Ministers will consider them carefully, as they always do, in the best interests of patients.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle
As someone who was a patient in the Wythenshawe hospital for several weeks in the middle of last year, I should like to ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware of the tremendous reputation and expertise of the chest unit at Wythenshawe hospital? Does he accept that if the service is severely reduced that is bound to have an adverse effect on the facilities available not only in the district but throughout the region?
§ Mr. Patten
It is very good of my right hon. and learned Friend to pay that compliment to those who looked after him in that hospital. Of course, we are aware of its high reputation. No recommendations about its future, or the future of any of the wards, have yet been referred to Ministers for decision. Should that happen, we shall of course consider most carefully any suggestions that have been made by the local health authority.
§ Mr. Tony Lloyd
Is the Minister aware that the community services in south Manchester and the surrounding districts are already grossly overstrained and that it is almost inescapable that some cuts will have to be made because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) said, the district has not been able to balance its books without making cuts? If ward closures take place, it will inevitably mean that the community services, which are already overstrained, will fail in their primary target of serving patient needs.
§ Mr. Patten
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern for those in the area, but he is speculating about what might happen should decisions be taken at some time in the future. The district health authority must face its present problems of overspending, and face them hard. While saying that, I applaud the approach of the district health authority in looking first to the needs of patients and not to the funding of empty or unnecessary beds, particularly with the changes in the pattern of medical care, when many people wish to go home at weekends and even more people wish to have day surgery rather than stay in hospital for many days unnecessarily.