HC Deb 21 October 1987 vol 120 cc755-6 5.25 pm
Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the decision by the health authorities of Coventry and the West Midlands to close Whitley hospital in Coventry. The decision on closure was taken last Wednesday at the regional health authority meeting in Birmingham. It was taken despite lobbies and delegations to that and other meetings in which, with the staff at the hospital, the health trade unions in the city and the patients relying on the services, I was involved. It was also taken in spite of a petition of 44,000 signatures. It is the largest petition in the history of Coventry and has been signed, so far, by one in seven of the city's population.

The matter received barely 10 minutes at the meeting last Wednesday. It was considered by a body of people who, in most cases, had not had the documents relating to the closure for more than 48 hours.

Whitley provides essential National Health Service facilities for the elderly in Coventry and the closure ends long-term care by the NHS of the frail, elderly in Coventry. Seven years ago Whitley was targeted for development as Coventry's second district hospital and was to be up-graded to 500 beds. Four years ago it was redesignated as a site for development and a centre of excellence for rehabilitation services. Those detailed plans have been quietly buried as the financial crisis in the NHS, locally, regionally and nationally, has escalated. Coventry is under-funded by £1.5 million this year.

The proposal is to sell Whitley hospital to private enterprise. That will cut the NHS budget in Coventry but it will cost the Department of Health and Social Security as much, if not more, in other forms of subsidy. It will cut NHS facilities by 200 beds and will lead to either job cuts or a reduction in wages and conditions of service for those who remain in employment.

Privatising an NHS hospital for the elderly gives credence to the comments of the chairman of the regional health authority who has said, in relation to the provision of hospital services, that there is some evidence to suggest that young people should count as a priority. That has been backed up by a junior Health Minister, now sitting on the Treasury Bench, who said: Those who do not get priority always raise objections but I believe this idea deserves serious consideration. That Minister should speak to the people of Coventry such as the parents of incontinent, handicapped children who have been told this week that their allocation of free NHS incontinence pads is to be reduced from six to two a day, robbing those kids of their dignity. The Minister should speak to the cancer patients in Birmingham who have been told in recent weeks that the NHS is full up. The closure of Whitley hospital further illustrates the fact that the Health Service is not safe in the Prime Minister's hands. In her opinion, her hands and legs were not safe in the Health Service. My constituents do not have the money to use private medicine and we need Whitley hospital. The House should debate the matter.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific arid important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the decision by the health authorities of Coventry and the West Midlands to close Whitley hospital. I well understand the hon. Gentleman's strong feelings, but I regret that I have to give him the same answer as I gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan). The matter is not appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot submit his application to the House.