HC Deb 20 April 1989 vol 151 cc453-4
8. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions he has had with and representations he has received from individuals and organisations in Northern Ireland since the publication of the Government's review of the National Health Service, "Working For Patients.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Richard Needham)

I have discussed the White Paper "Working for Patients" with a variety of interests, including representatives of the medical, nursing and management professions and members of health and social services boards, and I will be meeting several more delegations shortly.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Can the Minister name one individual or organisation that has welcomed the proposals unreservedly? Can he throw any light on the impact both on the Health Service and on patients of the recent fracturing of a main sewer in Belvoir, which is polluting the river Lagan?

Mr. Needham

As to the hon. Gentleman's second point, I am keeping a close eye on the situation and will write to him about it. On the first matter, we are involved in a whole series of discussions that are both constructive and sensible. So far, I have spoken to more than 700 senior members of the medical profession. Yesterday, I received a letter from the chairman of the British Medical Association's general medical services committee beginning, "Dear Richard", in which he wrote to express his personal pleasure at our discussions, saying how constructive they were, and how little acrimony there was. A large number of those working in the professions accept that there are many good points in our proposals and wish to work with the Government in implementing them.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is high time that the campaign of misinformation and distortion against the White Paper, which is causing great fear among the most vulnerable in the community, was brought to an end?

Mr. Needham

Yes, Sir.

Ms. Mowlam

Has the Minister received any representations from the plastic surgery unit at the Ulster hospital in Dundonald? If, as the White Paper suggests, the patients at that hospital are among those for whom the Government are meant to be working, why are the Government allowing one third of the 60 beds there to be closed, when there are more than 3,000 people waiting for treatment?

Mr. Needham

As the hon. Lady knows, what happens in the Ulster hospital is a matter for the Eastern health board. Since I have been Minister responsible for health in Northern Ireland, the Government have increased expenditure from £700 million to £950 million. The hon. Lady should go back to her union bosses, with whom she is constantly in touch, and suggest that they find more efficient and productive ways of spending the money that we have given them.