§ 2. Mr. John Greenway
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the prospects for self-governing hospitals in the Yorkshire region.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
I am very pleased to have received so far 10 expressions of interest in self-governing status in the Yorkshire region. I cannot yet comment in detail on the prospects for particular hospitals and units in the region.
§ Mr. Greenway
Although I recognise that hospitals facing the threat of closure might not achieve self-government, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that hospitals that have expressed an interest in self-government should not have their hopes dashed by rationalisation plans formulated by health authorities since his White Paper proposals were published? In particular, will he consider the case of Malton, where the local general practitioner practice, supported by the family practitioner committee, is keen to take on a practice budget in conjunction with Malton community hospital achieving self-governing status, towards which maintaining general practitioner beds and other services is essential for improved patient care and convenience?
§ Mr. Clarke
I have made it clear that self-government cannot be considered as an alternative to necessary closure and that health authorities must continue with planning their services as now. Nevertheless, I see prospects of a combination of self-government for a community hospital and of practice budgets for some local general practitioner practices leading to an increased use and better financing of popular general practitioner beds in community hospitals. If any expressions of interest come from Malton, I shall, of course, consider them with interest and on their merits.
§ Mr. Duffy
Earlier this month the Secretary of State announced the regional conference for Leeds on 11 July for the hospitals that he has in mind for self-government and that are showing interest in the idea. As some hospitals in Sheffield, Doncaster and north Nottinghamshire, which fall, as he knows, within the area of the Trent regional health authority, are showing similar interest, will he consider arranging a separate conference to be located in, say, Sheffield for the same purpose?
§ Mr. Clarke
I shall consider that helpful suggestion. We are not so rigid about regional boundaries as to insist that people attend a centre that is less convenient for their hospital. The meetings that I have attended so far with people from the units where interest has been expressed have been extremely successful, and I am sure that we shall have a full series of such meetings.
§ Mr. Kirkhope
Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept from me that there is considerable excitement in Leeds at the prospect of self-government for hospitals, and positive and great interest in the possibilities for the future? However, will he join me in condemning the scurrilous scaremongering of the unions and other politically motivated people in Leeds to try to prevent self-government?
§ Mr. Clarke
Local people are extremely interested in the idea of doctors, nurses and hospital managers having more autonomy over how their hospital is run. When I attend meetings with those interested, there is considerable interest as we explain in more detail how our proposals will work in financial and personnel terms and how they will be able to develop their own services. I agree with my hon. Friend. All that is happening despite the daft campaign in 818 some locations where people are still claiming that the proposals will lead to hospitals leaving the Health Service or to disruptions in the service. That argument is simply not sustainable when one considers the details of our proposals.
§ Mr. Crowther
Is the Secretary of State aware that some consultants in the Yorkshire region are privately expressing fears that a hospital that does not become self governing may suffer a hidden penalty in the allocation of resources? Will he give the House a cast-iron assurance that that will not happen?
§ Mr. Clarke
Under the new system, resources will be allocated to the health authorities and to general practitioners who hold practice budgets. They will decide the hospitals with which to have an agreement for the provision of the services that they need. The fear that the hon. Gentleman has described is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how the new arrangement will work.