HC Deb 22 July 1987 vol 120 cc351-3
1. Mr. Michael J. Martin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to improve health care in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Forsyth)

There are more doctors and nurses than under any previous Government and more patients are being treated than at any time in the history of the National Health Service in Scotland. A massive capital programme is under way, with 48 major new hospital developments completed since 1979 and 34 more in the pipeline. The Government will continue to build on this record of success in Scotland.

Mr. Martin

The Minister may know that prior to the election Lord Glenarthur wrote to me to say that the Stobhill maternity unit would be saved and that it was possible that Stobhill might be the site for the new Royal maternity unit. Given his new position, does the Minister consider that Stobhill would be an excellent place to have the Royal maternity unit?

Mr. Forsyth

The future of the Stobhill hospital will depend on a general review of acute services that is being carried out by Glasgow. As the hon. Gentleman knows, a decision whether the maternity unit should close was deferred while a feasibility study and appraisal for the replacement of the Glasgow Royal maternity hospital was conducted. That is still going on. I have nothing to add to the previous commitments that have been given to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern in Grampian and Aberdeen about the need for a new, modern cardiac surgery unit? Can he tell us what progress has been made in the review and when we can expect a decision?

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I was made well aware of that when I visited Aberdeen the other day. As he knows, the Advisory Committee on Specialist Services is looking at the matter and we expect to have a report shortly. At that point, it will be possible to take a view about Aberdeen.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce

Is the Minister aware that in general terms in Grampian there is concern at the delay in implementing the SHARE formula and at the shortfall in facilities such as those mentioned by the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith)? Is he further aware that we are disadvantaged by the fact that there is no such formula for ambulance services and that people in my constituency, in the community of Ellon, have no firm indication of when they will have an ambulance station, in spite of a commitment from the local chief ambulance officer that that will be provided? Will the Minister tell us when we will receive the resources?

Mr. Forsyth

Aberdeen and Grampian have done extremely well under the SHARE formula. It is true that they have not reached parity, but the resources made available to the Grampian health board are substantially greater than they would have been without the SHARE formula. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that.

Mr. Forth


Mr. Speaker

Order. Scottish Members take part in English Question Times and English Members may take part in Scottish Question Times.

Mr. Forth

Will my hon. Friend confirm that National Health Service expenditure per capita is higher in Scotland than in England? As the per capita consumption of alcohol, tobacco and confectionery is higher in Scotland, particularly in Strathclyde, than in England, may I ask what impact that has on the effectiveness of NHS services?

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's question. I confirm that health expenditure per head in Scotland is 23 per cent. higher than the average for the rest of the United Kingdom. There are also 39 per cent. more health staff in Scotland than in the rest of the United Kingdom and 59 per cent. more hospital beds in Scotland than in England. That is the extent of the Government's commitment to the Health Service in Scotland.

On the point about the incidence of smoking and so on, the Government, through SHEG—the Scottish Health Education Group—are endeavouring to change attitudes and behaviour. That is the best way to make further progress in preventive medicine.

Dr. Moonie

I am fascinated by the Minister's description of the success of the Health Service in Scotland. It bears little resemblance to my experience of the reality over the past 10 years. Will he turn his attention to the provision of community care in Scotland? Will he perhaps let the House know when the Government will make some necessary short-term commitment, as agreed by health boards, local authorities of whatever political colour and voluntary groups, to ensure the success of community care for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped?

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's question. As he knows, the Government have placed considerable emphasis on the importance of community care and achieving a gradual shift of elderly, mentally and physically handicapped people into the community. We have encouraged health boards and local authorities to give high priority to the provision of community care facilities. However, there will be a need for some patients to remain in long-stay accommodation.

We have increased funding for health boards by 8.4 per cent. in the current year, which, by any standards, is substantial. Fife has benefited considerably from SHARE. An extra £7.6 million was allocated to the board because of the existence of SHARE.

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