HC Deb 20 January 1986 vol 90 cc2-3
2. Dr. Marek

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many National Health Service hospitals in Wales there were in 1978; and how many there are now.

Mr. Mark Robinson

There were 178 NHS hospitals in Wales at 31 December 1978 and 164 now.

Dr. Marek

Are there not now fewer staffed hospital beds in Wales than at any time since the inception of the NHS? What is the Minister going to do about it?

Mr. Robinson

The hon. Gentleman should remember that we have been through one of the biggest hospital building programmes in the history of the Principality. As regards the drop in the numbers of beds, over 1,000 can be attributed to our mental health initiative to get people back into the community. Under that initiative there has been a reduction of nearly 1,000 in the number of beds available to mental health, compared with 1,329 overall.

Mr. Harvey

How many community hospitals have been opened in Clwyd since 1979?

Mr. Robinson

I shall write to my hon. Friend and give him that figure.

Mr. Alex Carlile

What proposals does the Minister have for the provision of more consultant beds in hospitals in rural Wales?

Mr. Robinson

We feel that the figures for consultant beds are satisfactory.

Mr. Raffan

Does my hon. Friend agree that just as important as the quantity of hospitals is their quality and the level of facilities and standard of care that they are able to provide? Is he aware of the widespread appreciation in Delyn of the fact that the Government have made available the necessary financial resources to transform three out of our four community hospitals, the new one at Mold being nationally recognised as a model for future community hospital developments?

Mr. Robinson

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point that out. I am sure he will be pleased to note that under this Government the reduction in the number of beds is less than it was in a similar period under the Labour Government.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does the Minister appreciate that doctors, nurses and ancillary staff are up in arms about the administrative changes that have followed the implementation of the Griffiths report? Does he appreciate that they feel that their professionalism is being undermined and often completely disregarded? As one constituent put it to me, it is a matter of life or death versus financial restrictions. How does the Minister reconcile that with the Prime Minister's famous statement that the National Health Service is safe in her hands?

Mr. Robinson

Many more patients are now being treated in Wales than was the case when this Government came to office. Part and parcel of the campaign by the Royal College of Nursing is that it feels that it is not being included in the reorganisation proposals. Last week I visited south Glamorgan, where it was pointed out to me that one of the appointments that had been made had come from the nursing profession.

Mr. Wigley

It is all very well for the Under-Secretary of State to say that the new district general hospitals have led to the closure of some old hospitals, which has happened in some instances, but does he accept that hospitals which it was assumed would continue to function when the district general hospitals were being planned are now having to be closed because of a lack of resources? If he contests that point, will he assure us that there will be no such closures until he has completed his rounds of the area health authorities in Wales?

Mr. Robinson

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the distribution and use of resources is a matter for individual health authorities. However, before any closure or any major change of use can take place, there has to be public consultation. If there is a weight of objection, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has to consider the matter. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the statutory procedures will continue to apply if any proposals for closures are put to us by the district health authorities.